From Iceland — Grapevine New Music: Svört Jól, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Benni Hemm Hemm & More

Grapevine New Music: Svört Jól, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Benni Hemm Hemm & More

Published December 22, 2023

Grapevine New Music: Svört Jól, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Benni Hemm Hemm & More
Photo by
Blair Alexander Massie

Well, well, well, only a few more days to go. Our sincerest apologies for not supplying you with your weekly fix of Icelandic music last week – the Grapevine office took an early weekend. One would think that, in the week before the holidays, Christmas-themed music would exclusively be released. Two days before Christmas, we’ve got you covered with metal-themed holiday music, murky electronica, AI-inspired compositions, and much, much more. 

Svört Jól – Svört Jól

Released December 4

For those of you who are getting tired of traditional Christmas music, here’s something for you. Thrash metal gang Svört Jól seem to have founded the band exclusively for the premise of releasing metal-themed holiday songs. It’s not something you’d put on in the presence of your extended family while carving the holiday roast (who knows?) – but it serves as an excellent catharsis after enduring the rambling of your racist uncle. JB

Inki – Do I Wanna Know?

Released December 8 

For those who grew up listening to the Arctic Monkeys, their 2013 album AM left many fans disappointed while attracting new listeners. However, Inki’s latest release doesn’t leave anyone complaining. A cover of the English indie-rockers, Inki transforms the song into a restrained electronica track, somehow making the track more interesting than the original. JB

Scandinavian Rapture – Forever In My Heart

Released December 15

Visual artist and musician Georg Óskar releases his latest track “Forever In My Heart” under his musical moniker Scandinavian Rapture. Turning to melodic synthesizer lines, the track includes Georg’s idiosyncratic vocal performance, reminiscent of Alan Vega – minus the borderline psychoticism. For an insiders’ look into the music of Scandinavian Rapture, check out the Track By Track for the album  The Worst Wait Of Our Life. JB

Egill Sæbjörnsson – Free Again

Released December 15

Artifical intelligence researchers Intelligent Instruments Lab continue their work of releasing music created through their newest invention, the proto-langspil. An iteration of the traditional Icelandic drone zither, the team at IIL imbued their proto-langspil with artificial intelligence. “Free Again” is the latest creation, written by artist Egill Sæbjörnsson. Read more about Intelligent Instruments Lab and their scientific research of the border between music and technology here. JB

Benni Hemm Hemm feat. Kórinn – París Norðursins

Released December 19 

There is possibly no one better suited to cover Prins Póló than Benni Hemm Hemm, the prince’s longtime collaborator and friend. The simplicity of this acoustic cover — consisting of nothing but a guitar, a bass, and a female choir — emphasises the ingenuity of Prins Póló’s songwriting. Benni Hemm Hemm’s version evokes a wide range of contrasting emotions: grief, joy, shyness, intense creativity. When I heard this playing on the radio the other day, I felt the need to pull over on the side of the road, letting the words and music reverberate through my mind. JB

My Favorite War – The Vanishing

Released December 21

The experimental duo My Favorite War consists of Icelandic musician Jón Kristínarson and Ukrainian poet, singer, and electronic artist Ella Yevtushenko. Weaving lo-fi post-rock by way of electronica, the outfit explores the politics of environmental destruction, patriarchy, and feminism. Shifting between vocalised and spoken-word performances, Ella’s voice conjures up a hauntingly bleak future of the human species. This three-track record is a perfect listen if you’re fed up with the impenetrable bliss of holiday music. JB

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