From Iceland — Jacobsen - Wednesday

Jacobsen – Wednesday

Published October 15, 2009

Ragnar Egilsson

The electronic music scene in Iceland has probably never been stronger. It seems every night a new band, a new collective or a new club night is born. It’s simply the most promising scene in Iceland right now and, hey, the kids seem to like it.
The night kicked off with Yoda Remote. A pair of lads young enough to make Surkin and Lo-Fi-Fnk look like wizened elders. Dresscode obviously influenced by FM Belfast, with the bowties and seemingly mandatory sweater vests. They immediately served up a screaming hatful of 8-bit mayhem fused with kitschy Euro-techno. But even when deep in Day-Glo Marioland the music seems haunted by the melancholy we’ve come to expect from Scandinavian electro (Knife, Röyksopp, etc.). And an extra special kudos must be given for bringing back the samples of Star Wars dialogue, it’s been a good 15 years and missed it we have.
Yoda Remote largely an unknown band and I don’t envy them opening up the Wednesday Weirdcore night but they worked those synths within an inch of their meagre existence. As much of the night to come, it wasn’t quite danceable but it was winkingly retro, intelligent and fun as hell.
Tonik opened up with a misshapen Airwaves stunt, with some laboured witticism asking people to dance followed by an awkward pause before they actually gave us something to dance to. The FM Belfast homey-tidy dresscode in full show. Two members, on Korg and bass respectively, setup reminiscent of Chromeo, the keyboard player even coming off like a malnourished version of Dave 1 (the one looking like the kind of nice Jewish boy you’d introduce to your mother). However, appearances can be misleading and the music a far cry from Chromeo’s poppy synthrotica. Predictably, there was a strong dubstep influence – it’s hard to find an electronic band these days that hasn’t been influenced by that wave at least in part. The music being best described as gritty electro with synthlines owing to Biosphere and the early Scandinavian ambient school. It plodded along, repetitively up to the fourth song where they launched into a glitchy and hesitant distortion that suited them much better. Their music suffers for a lack of novelty but if they were to keep rubbing away the polish like they did in the fourth song then they should be set to conquer a pretty solid niche for themselves.
I haven’t seen Skurken play in a good eight years, but was pretty much a stable back in the day. Now he’s hesitantly making his way back into the scene of hungry newcomers, after an extended sabbatical. His music is best described as ‘WARPed.’ you can hear early µ-ziq in there, the second song was almost a trip-hop reworking of Boards of Canada’s Dayvan Cowboy, and so on. It’s vintage Warp-catalogue in full force, awkward dancing and all. Having said that, he actually avoids a lot of the pitfalls you’d expect from the Warp progeny and if the label hadn’t moved on to a new sound with Flying Lotus and Battles he’d be there tearing it up. Regrettably a man out-of-time, as things stand, but I’m interested in seeing what his next move is.
Yagya played nice ‘n safe clubby minimal tech-house. A solid act that finally got the inexplicable horde of Japanese girls at the venue to wiggle their ass. The crowd liked it, not much else to say.
Next up was Futuregrapher, led by the newcomer Árni Grétar. Now, I was else set to hate on the poor guys, the name reminded me of Future Sounds of London and similar early-90s UK electro, and lo and behold that’s exactly how the started off. At this point I was contemplating the role of a music reviewer in the 21st Century, had I become nothing more than a living tag cloud? A blob orbiting bands to aid people in categorizing their playlists? But before I could kick them into their carefully selected niche for your consuming pleasure, something started happening in their fourth song. A throbbing gargle of a synthline carved a path into my medulla oblongata and made sweet sloppy love to it. I have no idea what to call the music that followed – but it was fucking brilliant. Hands down, best band of the evening.
Frank Murder concluded the downstairs line-up with his dramatic Italo-disco. The music is self-serious and meticulously playful and I’ve simply never been down with the guy. The set was tight and he worked the crowd with ease. I listened to a few songs and nipped off for a smoke, me and the doormen watched as Mr. Murder’s bass rattled the front windows to the point of worry.
Ruxpin opened the upstairs venue with IDM breakbeat, almost a slowed down breakcore. The upstairs filled up quickly and in the frontline were the mandatory Euro-hippies in their tunics dancing away like at a Goya drumcircle. Sigh…
Marlon and Tanya Pollock under the guise of Anonymous are a strange hybrid. Harsh dubstep, ghettotech, atmospheric hiphop. Marlon stood there ruddy-cheeked and bright-eyed like Chris Martin after a bellyful of Gwyneth’s Quick Roast Chicken lighting up the darkness. The cousins are descendents of the Pollock brothers from legendary Icelandic punk band Utangarðsmenn and they carry on the mantle in their own fashion. Pulse and drone replacing grinds and shouts – just as good a way as any to tackle the coming winter and economic recession.
 Anonymous are a dependable stage act and even though the barely audible rapping leaves something to be desired they delivered nice scoop of grimy dance music.
The last act of the night was Airwaves veteran Biogen. Experimental techno – machinelike, uptight and old school. The man has a claim in raising the Icelandic electronic music scene and I hope there will always be a place for him there. A solid act and a solid finish to strong first night.

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