From Iceland — Beats, Rhymes And Life: Faktorý Downstairs

Beats, Rhymes And Life: Faktorý Downstairs

Published November 2, 2012

Beats, Rhymes And Life: Faktorý Downstairs

I don’t do drugs (often), but if I did I would do them while listening to artists like Thizone. Oops, I’ve fallen down a K-hole and I can’t get up! Then again, it’s sort of nice down here…

Thizone serves up tracks that sound like old school video game noises on acid, with hooky, heavy electro beats that are often captivating and wholly enthralling. It’s not your typical stoner ambient chill-wave, and may cause you to dance a crazy dance.

It’s the sort of electro that reaches out, pulls you in, and forces you to rhythmically move your head to the beat. Somehow my vertebrae disappeared during Thizone’s set, and my head wobbled around like jelly, bobbing to the music. At times the sounds did get a little repetitive, but Thizone did an excellent job of mixed things and throwing in a sample or two to keep the audience’s attention.

I would be selling Thizone short by saying the set was laidback. At some points, tracks morphed into blistering soundscapes that sputtered with sharp snare drum taps and another sound that could be described as “glittery.”  Still other beats commanded the audience’s attention with a zap noise that sounded like it was straight from a retro arcade video game, layered on top of a beat that recalled the thundering footsteps of a quickly approaching giant. The transition between songs was flawless, and soon I found myself listening to something that mimicked the heartbeat of coke addict. Here Thizone exhibited technical skill, masterfully playing with the resonance of a sample to create a spinning whirl of splattering sound over the frantic beat.

For this set, Thizone donned a shirt that read, “Le rap c’etait mieux avant,” which translates from French to, “Rap was better before.”  Maybe the rap was better before, but whatever Thizone is doing is better now.

Anyone who thinks the laptop DJ is boring hasn’t been paying attention to Intro Beats. The man moves his fingers faster and more nimbly than some artists move their entire bodies on stage in one night. They flit around with a twitchy urgency, gliding masterfully over his weapons of choice: a laptop, mixer and turntable.

Intro Beats has been a fixture in the Icelandic hip-hop since the very beginning, being one of the producers behind Forgotten Lores. The group released two of the most critically acclaimed Icelandic rap albums, and seeing Intro Beats solo, it’s easy to understand why.

For a small crowd shrouded in fog (yes, there was a fog machine, yes, it was awesome), the sounds ranged from live turntable scratching over what sounded like Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” to thick bass beats with hip hop samples sprinkled throughout. At one point, the tiny venue was filled with big booty-clap bass, rhythmic and massive.  It was easy to imagine it being blasted at a club, a sea of hot bodies sweating and moving and dancing. The bass wound down, and all the sudden transitioned into a smooth piano-y jazz sound that would make even John Legend hip again. When it was over, a chorus of claps and whistles and cheers erupted from the crowd, thankful for the opportunity to see a master at work.

By Kirsten O’Brien

RVK Soundsystem by Júlía Hvanndal

My night at Factory downstairs started with RVK Soundsystem. Once again there was a ferocious battle between me and the wicked wind on the way. I ran to avoid certain death and arrived, disheveled, as they were beginning, a knot of guys standing around some turntables, dry ice hanging ghoulishly in the air.

The sound was warm, the Jamaican sun transported through the ether to wind whipped Reykjavík. It wasn’t particularly crowded, but there was a good vibe and the tiny dance floor was in use, with people bobbing and ducking in the lazy way that reggae music inspires. After a shaky beginning in which they seemed to lack a particular direction, the guys found their groove and started to play their signature mix of balmy beats, a selection of some of the best reggae/dub/roots/dancehall has to offer. I found a corner in which to quietly bob and swing my arms so I could observe the mix of people. There may not have been a huge crowd, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in spirit and, and ending with a few reggae classics the set drew to a close.

There was a bit of a pause in between sets but eventually Oculus got up and running. I have to confess to coming with prejudice to his gig. I was somehow imagining heavy, minimalistic beats played to an almost empty room. Perhaps one stray person on the dancefloor, nodding to the doof-doof of the beat. However, that was my imagination running away with me, and fortunately I was proven wrong. It was all to the contrary, the beats were in fact bouncy, the room was very crowded and despite my initial feeling, I enjoyed myself. Guess that’ll teach me for preconceived ideas.

I found my corner again for the set, and while I didn’t intend to dance, just stand there and look cool (or something), the music vibrated its way up through my feet, and against my best intentions, I found myself moving. Though it had its heavy, oppressive moments, in general the music was lively, bordering at times on uplifting, especially towards the end where some vocals even came sneaking in. The room was soaked in smoke and coloured light. All I could see from my corner was a milky ocean of limbs and heads, bouncing around, everyone forgetting, momentarily, that there was a world outside. Oculus wound things up at one on the dot and received hearty applause before the crowd broke up and headed out, into the cold.

By Bergrún Anna

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