From Iceland — Cult Leaders and Circus Sideshows

Cult Leaders and Circus Sideshows

Published November 4, 2012

Cult Leaders and Circus Sideshows

Stereo Hypnosis kicked off the night at Þýski Barinn for a thin crowd, and they never got worse but they never got better either. They essentially played the same song for their entire set; it was a slow and steady noise, and I kept waiting for a beat to drop or some kind of hook to come in but I was left standing in anticipation. The sound would swell and retreat, reminiscent of ocean waves. There is no reason to see this band live (ever) because they’re best suited to solo listening in your bedroom with noise killing headphones. They stayed true to the “hypnosis” portion of their name, making music that was catatonic, more cerebral than conscious.
They’re from Iceland, but Epic Rain makes music that sounds like it could be from an Eastern European circus freak show. The eager crowd lapped it up, as it was a welcomed change from the monotonous sameness of the act before. Their sound was more spoken word poetry than rap, with quick and urgent vocals often layered over sinewy violins and backed by incredible turntable scratching. Their brand of jangly Tom Waits-esque circus hip-hop was fun and joyous, with equal parts hooky vocals and eager rapid-fire verse. The lead singer was sharp and aggressive onstage, making angular gestures and not skipping a beat as another band member blew bubbles onto the crowd. A churning clockwork beat was kept afloat by a violin sample, and the crowd began to dance. Move over, Barnum & Baileys, there’s a new act in town.
If Ghostigital’s frontman Einar Örn Benediktsson conducts his politics in the same way he performs his music, we need more people in office like him. Best known as a former member of the Sugarcubes and a city council member since since 2010, he performs with a charismatic and captivating intensity. Spinning, noisy, hip hop-esque vocals at one point recalled something like early Wu-Tang, and at another seemed on the verge of collapsing, an echo-y and stuttering splatter of sounds that seemed to vibrate out of his body and fall onto the crowd. Clad in a white button up shirt, he looked more clean-cut cult leader than politician. Sometimes the lyrics didn’t make any sense (“I don’t want to be a sofa!” he croons at one point, as if he were on a bad, bad acid trip) and at others, they were startling coherent, like a madman alternating between a fit of hysteria and serene consciousness.

“I have an idea,” he says, before erupting into more shredding noise. ‘What is it what is it!’, The eager crowd seems to collectively say, watching him with rapt attention. He ends the songs by admitting, “I don’t have any ideas.” Okay. Is this how cults start? I think so.

Whatever. I don’t care, I’ll drink the Kool-Aid and follow you anywhere.


I have begun to notice that the venue really does have an impact on how successful a live act can be, and after hearing several rave reviews, I was excited to see Bloodgroup take the stage. They had previously performed at Harpa, and perhaps they are best suited to large venues with room to move. In tiny Þýski Barinn however, their music didn’t seem to translate. The lead singer, a beautiful blond elfish woman cloaked in a black hood, seemed to seduce the crowd as she sang. She sang trance-like mesmerizing vocals that flooded over low, white-noise bass. The entire set recalled The XX if they were less sad and annoying. At times the beep-boop-beep synth beats drowned out the vocals, and I’d imagine they’d sound much better in a larger venue where their sounds can fill the room. At one point the crowd even seemed distracted, no longer paying attention as a keyboard heavy track began. Bloodgroup didn’t seem to care, swirling around on stage in their own world.

By Kirsten O’Brien

Ghostpoet has that carefree but a little bit dangerous South London swag about himself. His set consists of him him lazily reciting his lyrics while backed up by a drum, samples, synths and some vocal effects for flair and texture. He was well received by a moderately packed dance floor but the metal kids I ran into in the queue -who were there because this seemed the only thing worth seeing at this moment – looked disappointed. I felt he lacked in the intensity he tried to convey. The sample work and audio manipulation was technically nicely done, but failed to menace and since his delivery is so relaxed I would have wanted to see teeth of the set come out from the back up but it didn’t. Rendering the whole set nice, but mostly harmless.

I am not a fan of reggae. I have tried to find that one band or one song within the genre – that I believe every genre has – that I can mention if asked what I think about reggae. Ojba Rasta could very well be the end of this search and almost every song that bass player Arnljótur Sigurðsson sings in could be the song. He has such deep understanding of how to treat and apply melody in different contexts, adding a pleasant folky feel the rumbling bass dub attack. I am glad this band exists and that I know about them.

Austrians Elektro Guzzi featured a standard formation: guitar, drums, bass and millions of pedals. They played straightforward techno and totally rocked the house. I was in the pit for most of the show and all our heads nodded as one with occasional fist bumps. Most of their charm comes from the novelty factor of hearing these sounds come from this kind of rock n’ roll formation but whatever the formation and it’s “wow-how-did-he-do-that-sound-with-that-instrument” factor it can safely be said that Elektro Guzzi is the tightest techno band around.

ULTRA MEGA TECHNOBANDIÐ STEFÁN has been around since mid noughties and for some reason are usually in Airwaves late night slot and deliver what they are probably booked for: a high school dance party for 200 of their closest and loyal fans and friends. I saw them in 2008 and liked them. They’re all about being wild and punk rock and gleefully sampling parts of songs by other bands and make them their own by layering 8 bit synths and a crazy energetic stage performance. Nothing wrong with that and the audience loved them. They did pretty much the same thing now, which shouldn’t be bad, they have their sound and their thing and their fans, but I felt the crazy stage antics were a bit forced this time around. Which understandable, doing the same thing for such a long time must be tiring.

Aðalsteinn Jörundsson

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