It’s tough to set your schedule up for Iceland Airwaves. Over the festival’s five days, there are 150 bands in the official “on-venue” programme alone. And what makes it all the more difficult and exciting is an ever-expanding list of new names on the scene. It’s like facing a finger-shaking life insurance salesman asking: “How willing are you to take risks?”
This year 49 bands are making their Iceland Airwaves debut. Some have been on the scene for decades, others just formed last month. In the remaining weeks before the festival we are sifting through them, ten at a time. We’re not going to make the decision for you, but we can at least help you make more a more informed one.
aYia’s debut single “Water Plant” dropped on September 27 as part of Bedroom Community’s HVALREKI series. This series is a set of digital releases which “strip away visual design, packaging, and manufacturing”—opting for purity over packaging. This Reykjavík three-piece keep true to the aesthetic of non-aesthetic. Haunting, hollow, pure.
Yeah, he can. Have you ever chewed spearmint gum in the middle of winter and inhaled super deeply? That’s how fresh this kid is. Cool on the scene at only sixteen, Aron’s contributions to Reykjavík rap are getting attention around the world. A good place to get to know the guy is through the purple-hazed lens of his double-feature video for “Enginn Mórall”/“Grundaður.” Breathe in/breathe out…
Bára isn’t here to make things easy, she’s here to make them interesting. We were first captivated by her at a February performance in the experimental arts and music space Mengi, where she hid behind her contrabass growling, howling, wrestling with, and of course, playing her instrument. With a Master’s in Composition from the University of Copenhagen, Bára pushes music to new heights—literally. Her debut album, released earlier this year, is titled ‘Different Rooftops’ and is a compilation of city-inspired tracks, from “Rooftops of Prague” to the “Rooftops of Marrakech.”
Two years ago the Grapevine contributors from Straumur received an anonymous email with a video and song titled “Fuck With Someone Else.” A joke? A threat? A press ploy? A disgustingly captivating liquid-metal alterworld where Jófríður’s haunting voice rings out over a dark-black-deep-bass void? Yup: it turned out to be the latter. This year the secretive supergroup released another song and video in the same style, titled “ħøłɏ ǥɍøᵾnđs,” and has received praise from music-mongers across the globe, from Billboard to i-D to your dear RVK Grapevine.
In contrast to the new and elusive Gangly, IamHelgi is an experienced and straightforward producer in 101. He has been working in Reykjavík’s hip-hop and pop scene for the past ten years, both as an independent beatmaker and as one-half of the hip-hop duo Úlfur Úlfur. He really needs no “welcome to the scene” as he’s been in it for a while now, nonetheless we are excited to see him play his first solo set at Iceland Airwaves this year. Also, we forgive you, Helgi, for recently remixing a Justin Bieber song.
Krakk & Spaghettí
Six years ago some kids called Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Domo Genesis and the likes took to the streets of Los Angeles, donning bucket hats and rapping about hating Barbra Streisand. At first it was hard to take them seriously, but by virtue of their really not giving a fuck, people did. It was a huge come-up for bucket hats. Krakk og Spaghettí have a similar aesthetic (minus the extreme crime). The project began when Þorgerður, one third of the group, wanted to use her Christmas vacation to write raps, “mostly to be funny on Twitter.” “We discovered you don’t actually have to be cool to rap,” says Margrét, another third. As Odd Future and the bucket hat phenomenon has shown us, it might even be better if you’re not.
Another rap group? I promise I didn’t do this on purpose. Seriously, this list was randomly generated from a larger list of almost 50 Airwaves debutantes, which shows just how prolific Icelandic rap is right now. While the general upsurgence is promising, it also makes it harder for any one group to get noticed. To get a spot on the lineup at Airwaves is an accomplishment in itself. Landaboi$ was started in 2015 by a group of schoolboy friends: Helgi B, Helgi A, Jón Bragi, Steindór Waage and Starri Snær. They’ve got more of the “industrial” trap sound than others, the kind that makes you feel like you’re bouncing on your heels in an abandoned warehouse somewhere, even if you’re just sitting in the “nice” Te og Kaffi with headphones on.
Moji & The Midnight Suns
A chance encounter under the midnight sun drew Moji, Bjarni, and Frosti Jón—Moji & The Midnight Suns—together on summer vacation a year ago. Though they’ve just barely met and have released a total of two singles together; their debut album ‘What I Saw On The Way To Myself’ is set for release two weeks before their debut Airwaves appearance.
One Week Wonder
You know this trio has something spacey to say when they cite musical influences such as Pink Floyd, Air and movie composer Ennio Morricone. The group met in 2014 and went to Berlin to study sound engineering the following year (“we landed on the other side,” lead singer Magnús Benedikt Sigurðsson sings on their debut track, “Mars”). During their year in Germany the group churned out track after track using vintage instruments and a 24-track tape recorder. Their finished product speaks (or sings) to the timeless (and spaceless) nature of their creative process. “Mars” brings listeners somewhere high and ephemeral where “silence is the only sound…” Well, not literally.
Whether you love or loathe the Beatles, there has been some point in your life where you’ve caught yourself singing along to one of their songs. “I wanna hold your haaand…” you wail at someone drunkenly. The Beatles had their formula down. Because of them the iconic pop sounds of the 1960s have been carried into decade after decade, on the backs of an ever-evolving crowd of pop-rock-and-indie lovers. Puffin Island bears their beautiful burden into 2016. The group released their first single “Harrison” (yes, as in George Harrison) in 2015, quickly finding regular radio play. Their debut album ‘Another Day’ was just released earlier this summer.
Read the other parts of this 50-band Airwaves Debutantes guide here.
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