From Iceland — Alison Gets A Guided Tour Through Sónar

Alison Gets A Guided Tour Through Sónar

Published February 16, 2015

Alison Gets A Guided Tour Through Sónar
Photo by
Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

As I write this, I am listening to a deleted scene from Magnolia, the movie by Paul Thomas Anderson.  I came across it because I wanted to look up the name of the character that Tom Cruise plays in that movie.  More on that later.  I had the best night yet at Sónar last night.  It struck me how well organized the whole thing is.  Plenty of security, but no one being too rough on the guests that I could see.  If the police were there, and I assume they were, they didn’t seem to be in anyone’s face.  And the guests just seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Nice job, Sónar people.

On this final evening of the festival, I was also fortunate enough to meet up with Curver at Harpa, one of the few people I trust to guide me through this type of music.  I usually can’t be bothered to think about the differences between dubstep and footwork, but Curver can and does give these things quite a bit of thought and is generous with his information throughout the evening.

We meet at Nisennenmondai.  I have just found out that this band has been around since 1999 and they have 4 albums, which I now plan to spend the next six months listening to.  I am simultaneously embarrassed and thrilled to find out that I’ve never heard of them, because they are my new favorite band.  The music is somewhere in between krautrock and a sort of techno.  They have a new album called “N” and you can listen to it here:

When that finishes, we head down to the basement to listen to Daniel Miller, the head of Mute Records, who is DJing in the club.  The club has been converted from the lower level of the parking garage.  They have a great sound system down here and I’m impressed by the fact that this exists if only for this weekend.  However, I don’t last long.  I think I’m still disappointed with myself for missing the beginning of Nisennenmondai.

From there we head up to Ewok.  I think I remember him from the earliest Airwaves festivals that I went to and the occasional nights at the electro nights I used to go to on Hafnarstræti.  Curver informs me that Ewok will be working some footwork into his DJ set tonight, which confuses me until I realize that he’s talking about a style of music.  I get the odd feeling now that I am walking through an exhibition instead of a music festival.

Kindness is next.  I spend half the set laughing in spite of myself.  The pop atmosphere is way over the top.  The backup singers are amazing.  If you haven’t seen the movie “20 Feet From Stardom” you should stop reading this and do that instead.  Curver mentions a connection to Level 42 and other ’80s things.  I hear a heavy Prince influence just moments before the guitarist starts singing Purple Rain in the middle of another song.  They also work I Want To Dance With Somebody into yet another song.  All of a sudden, this is starting to remind me of that other happy party band, FM Belfast.  Normally, the presence of slap bass, drum solos, and a guy with a stratocaster playing womp-chicka-womp guitar licks would be enough to send me running, but the singer ends a song by flicking the drumstick that he’s been using on his cowbell like a helicopter blade back to the drummer, who catches it to end the song, drop the other stick and keep playing and I completely lose my shit.  I look around to see who else saw that and who is there?  FM Belfast.  Hi FM Belfast.  What is the universe trying to tell me?  Amazing.

At this point, I begin to think that I’m all in this evening, so I’m going to wait around I think, for Jamie XX and yes, even Skrillex.  I end up seeing a few minutes of Jamie XX, which bores me completely and then, after giving me a short description of what “brostep” is, Curver and I head in to see Skrillex. Here is where Magnolia comes in.  Skrillex is the musical cousin of that motivational conference led by Tom Cruise’s character, Frank TJ Mackey, in Magnolia.  I have never hated someone’s music so thoroughly as I do at this very moment watching what feels like the explosion of a teenage boy’s frustrated imagination all over this hall.  The room starts to smell like BO, corn chips, and wanking.  I leave.

I get an SMS from Curver several minutes later that says:  “things are getting harder now at Skrillex.”  I really can’t think of a bigger disappointment than waiting for Skrillex to get hard, so I head out into the rain with my friend Gaby.
Takk fyrir mig.
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