From Iceland — Formulatic but Fun

Formulatic but Fun

Published July 11, 2008

Formulatic but Fun

Since the release of his latest album, Murta St. Calunga, no more than three weeks ago, Benni Hemm Hemm has been popping up in venues around Reykjavík with all the persistence of a whack-a-mole. Most recently, Benni Hemm Hemm was sighted at Iðnó, accompanied by the Icelandic Youth Symphony Orchestra for a pleasant evening show. Benni Hemm Hemm has always kept a big reserve of musicians at hand. So, expanding that reserve to about 30 or 40 musicians comes as no real surprise.  The performance attracted a loose crowd, comfortably sipping beers and occasionally heading outside for a cigarette and a view of the pond, enjoying themselves throughout.

I’ve always found Benni Hemm Hemm a little repetitive. He seems to grab on to about four bars and then repeats them ad nauseam, preferring to rely on the ensembles he amasses to introduce any variation. This method can produce some truly irritating songs that seem to be all chorus and no verse. After ceaseless repetition, even the prettiest theme can quickly sour. Even watching this live performance, I had a difficult time distinguishing one song from the other, since they all more or less followed an identical formula. However, Benni Hemm Hemm’s indefatigable optimism and spirit remained relentlessly charming. With music so upbeat, it’s hard not to crack a smile at least. A beautifully haunting rendition of ‘SnjórLjósSnjór’ and the uplifting harmonies of ‘Friðþjófur og Ingibjörg’ were two highlights of the concert, fully taking advantage of the orchestra’s elegant detailing. For a nice finish, The Orchestra put down all of their instruments and instead raised their voices to sing the last few bars, the audience quickly joining in to take the joyful anthem with them. Benni Hemm Hemm’s music may be formulaic, but this formula he’s found can be the key to truly spirited and pleasant music.

  • VERDICT: Benni Hemm Hemm creates repetitive, but ultimately delightfully upbeat music.
  • WHERE: Iðnó
  • WHEN: Thursday, June 19
  • WHO: Benni Hemm Hemm & Ungfónía
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