From Iceland — Björkstep and Sufjancore

Björkstep and Sufjancore

Published October 16, 2011

Björkstep and Sufjancore

Last night’s party was held at the former headquarters for the conservative party and my current least favorite venue. A favorite hang-out of children sired by money-drunk Icelanders during the financial boom years. Spoiled, neglected and with a rich sense of entitlement (think guido meets Hitlerjugend). Of course there are annoying Icelandic drunks at all venues but no venue seems to be as densely populated with charmless humans. So, later on, as we descend the spiral, I will be giving out some helpful statistics about the venue. Read on!


Kenni Loggins step aside! We have a new easy smooth ’80s lounge lizard to ease down those Fuzzy Navels. Self-consciously preppy ’80s electro ballads. Couldn’t be whiter if it was Bon Jovi, Bon Iver and Bono eating vanilla ice-cream in a snowstorm. Would probably go down great in Williamsburg and these boys better be getting laid after stooping this low. But it careened nicely into the Drive soundtrack from time to time and there were hints of the anthemic but not enough to sustain interest.


I kept trying to look this band up online before the show but couldn’t find anything about a group called Nerdy. Turns out I’m dyslexic, otherwise I would have known this would be one of the best bands of the night. Nedry are made up of two nerds (see! Half right!) and a Japanese lass with an insane set of pipes.

Yeah so, the band sounds a lot like Homogenic era Björk with the beats updated to reflect current trends. That may sound like I didn’t like it but I actually really did! Dubstep basslines, amazing singer taking risks and headbanging her homonculi heart out. I’d check them out again.

Btw. why did my corner of Nasa smell of fruity airfreshener at regular intervals? Are they misting us with perfume now? What happened to smoke machines? Weird…anyway…


Oh, Berndsen. Not everyone loves you but I sure do. Yes, on the surface it’s the same reflexively ’80s dance balladeering as with Kiriyama but the difference is that Berndsen knows how to produce some real earworms, he doesn’t take it seriously at all but at the same time I never get the feeling that he’s anything less than sincere in his love for that period in music.

Started the set with a stomping italo disco beat, came on in luchador mask with the crowd cheering him on, voice sounding a little like Robert Smith’s, saxophonist dressed like General Zod,  maracas guy looking like Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, pretty in pink with Serge Gainsbourg eyes and a red beard, Finished the night on his most recent hit Úlfur Úlfur, singing Bubbi Morthens’s part himself while dressed in a flowing fur coat. The red goat in the coat did it again.


Another Björk fan on stage. But another example of how thin the line is in music. Berndsen and Kiriyama weren’t miles apart but one worked and the other didn’t. Nedry worked but Glasser really didn’t.

Dressed in what looked like an American flag apron, starts yipping like a purse dog. Completely unoriginal singer and her voice was at times very grating.

Broke the pattern a little with the tribal trippyness of Apply but even that fell flat. You can scrunch your face up in sincerity all you want but when your sound is not your own and you are goosestepping to the war flutes of chic mediocrity then I’m not going to take you seriously.

The backing band wasn’t all bad though and would work a lot better without that frontwoman.

Somehow they still drew an enthusiastic crowd and probably the youngest crowd I’ve seen at Airwaves yet.

Percentage of girls at Nasa wearing those exact same horribly unflattering diaper shorts over tights = 146

Number of clearly underage boys at Nasa in bow ties and suspenders = 63


Band led by two manic pixie tomboys bursting with female empowerment and their smiling male asseccories. Random Recipe are francophone Candians and they couldn’t be broadcasting it more loudly. Just a little punk, just a little quirky, embracing “ethnic” music by doing beatboxed spoken word with a loungy reggae vibe (can’t you tell how wild and eclectic they are from that band name?). Sing-song rap in multiple languages. Melodicas. Think slam poetry meets Manu Chao, Desir and Amanda Palmer and what you’re thinking is exactly what came on stage. My only question is why are they wasting their time at Airwaves when we know they’d go down like a banker at fire at Occupy Wall Street. Go there and pep up the occupiers and don’t worry about Airwaves, we’ll be fine!
Their most tolerable song is called Shipwreck and incidentally que le titre symbolise parfaitement le groupe.

Amount of people at Nasa = 50.000

Number of bathrooms at Nasa = 2


SBTRKT(pronounced ‘Subtract’) is tangled in a flurry of styles, most noticeably soulful dubstep and future garage (I know these labels are silly but it would be hard to navigate electronic music without them). SBTRKT is poppy enough to appeal to the punters but progressive enough to appease the critics. Predictably the band has been drowning in hype since 2010 and, never one to miss out on a critical gang bang, I’ve been following him since early 2010. He’s done some stellar remixes and got well-received attention for that but once that eponymous album hit I can’t say it lived up to my expectations. A little like last night’s show. But while for me old SBTRKT might sound a little like the bargain bin Mount Kimbie, he has enough strong songs to keep a room interested for a whole set. So the crowd got into it, mind you, they were already losing their shit to the sound of each others ringtones so that’s not saying much (kids, don’t do drugs!)

SBTRKT performs his sets half-obscured by a big ol African mask, something that’s been a big thing in the electronic music scene these last years (Redshape, Deadmau5, Knife, Weirdcore, Die Antwoord). Mixing things up with live instrumentation and littering the set with remixes. Things went predictably huge with his two big hits, Wildfire that guests Yukimi Nagano from the excellent Swedish electronic band Little Dragon and the mid-tempo banger Look at Stars ft. Sampha. Look at Stars is a massive thing to behold and it really lifted the night for me.

Number of trashy spoiled brats with Gestapo hair that tried to pick a fight with me because the amphetamine told them to do it = 4

Number of farmer princesses in diapers who imagined themselves as A list mean girls and thought pushing my wife was a good idea = 10


Doggedly indie. Crowded stage of blissful young kids dressed like even younger kids. Lots of hey!s and whoo!s, soaring keyboards. Lots of easy comparisons like Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, bits of Animal Collective (but let’s not get too weird!), Edward Sharpe, Vampire Weekend. You get the picture. If this is your cup of tea then you were probably drunk and having a great time last night at Nasa. If you’re a miserable bastard like me that knows that no one will remember the name of this band in 5 months, then you used the chance to brave the line for the toilets.

Number of times I intend to go back to Nasa = 0

Number of nice bouncers = 1


After fighting my way back from the bathroom, it was late, I was tired of human beings, it’s been a lot of long nights and I had no way of convincing the people I was with to stay at Nasa any longer.

But I generally like Sykur. They know how to make tinny, campy, 8bit electro-pop, they’re young, infectiously enthusiastic and I wish them all the best.

This may be my last Airwaves. There are still good acts being booked and it’s still possible to experience random, crazy moments if you keep your eyes open but they are few and far between and between them lies a horde of whatever I can call those creatures last night at Nasa. But thanks for all the good times. Who knows, maybe next year will be amazing and I’ll take it all back.

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