This year over 50 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.
Lasting power isn’t just about knowing where you’re going, it’s about knowing where you came from. Since their first meeting, the core duo of Jarl $quad—Alexander Jarl and Helgi Ársæll—have evolved their sound from the boom-bap golden era beats to a more recent trap style sound. In the summer of 2015 they released their first single, “Halelúja,” onto the Reykjavík rap scene. Where to next, Jarl?
Auðn are a black metal band. Let’s get that out of way. Members of Iceland’s black metal community, bands and followers alike, might find this statement contentious. From the beginning Auðn have been recognisable outside that tight-knit community for their slow and melodic sound that runs counter to the fast & furious fervor that the genre is known for. Still, they hold tight to the “do whatever the fuck you want” ideology—maybe even more adherently than the others. But if you’re running counter to the counter, where does that lead you? Apparently it leads you to Gaukurinn on Wednesday night.
Crystal Breaks originally came together in 2009 as “Love Demons” (a title inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Of Love and Other Demons’). Just like the main character of the book they were so influenced by, they faded into legend, only to be excavated by the joining of their singer Rocky Haraldsdóttir in 2014. They come from a variety of musical backgrounds—from folk to metal to pop—and are unafraid to dip into them all. Their Airwaves performance comes as a preclude to the release of their first album, set to be released early next year.
It might be strange to see Högni Egilsson’s name on a “debutants” list. As lead singer of the band Hjaltalín he’s won Songwriter of the Year at the coveted Icelandic Music Awards in 2008, and Album of the Year at the equally prestigious Grapevine Music Awards in 2012. He is also a member of the prolific and ever-changing pop-dance collective GusGus. In 2014 Högni premiered HE, his first fully solo project (with support from a men’s choir and a string band), at Sónar Reykjavík. He’s a choir boy and a lead singer, he’s folk and rock and pop. He’s Heraclitus’s proverbial river—always there, never the same.
I remember as a child mixing together all my favorite colours trying to make the new “best” colour that had never been created before—but it always came out brown. Kórus is a supergroup/choir/collective of musicians and artists from around Reykjavík that get together and sing every week. They are that unseen colour that I always wanted to achieve. The music that they create is always relevant to their members’ current projects—on a given night you might hear new material from Bedroom Community’s Valgeir Sigurðsson or an electric collaboration with Kira Kira. Kórus magically combine all the best things to make something even better.
Kristján Eldjárn is one member of the four-piece band Sykur, known for their shimmering electronic music and even brighter performances. But there are darker paths to be discovered, which Kristján set off toward under the moniker “Kreld.” In May of this year he released “Way Low,” the first effort tied to his name distinctly. It’s a deeper, bass-heavy dive into the depths of something, with refreshing gasps of vocals by himself and singer Jófríður.
Area codes are a big display in American hip-hop. Ask Ludacris. Ask Warren G, Nate Dogg, and Snoop. Ask Dre (still got love for the streets, reppin’ 213…). Last year Rímnaríki dropped their breakout tune and video “111,” which pays homage to their main ground Breiðholt (and also to municipal numbering systems). Though they hail from 111, the four-piece rap group regularly makes a break for 101, where they can be caught performing at hip-hop and rap-based club nights around town.
Sigga Soffía & Jónas Sen
Sigga Sofía is a dancer and choreographer from Reykjavík. She is an explorer of dynamics—and is becoming known for her performances combining first-rate dancers and fireworks. Jónas Sen is just as dynamic in a different way. He’s been on world tour with Björk as her keyboardist and collaborated with her on the 2011 production of ‘Biophilia’. Witness the combustion when two stars collide.
The combined tricks and talents of Muck frontman Karl Torsten and Fufanu/Russian Girl’s Guðlaugur. The two have been collaborating for a while but it wasn’t until earlier this year that their music made it from the depths to the surface. As the duo Skrattar they’ve released two four-track albums and recently were featured on the goth-punk-hip-hop-and-a-few-in-betweens compilation album ‘Myrkramakt II’.
Hafnarfjörður is a hard enough place to rep—not least because it’s got a five-syllable name. The Valby brothers took it upon themselves to prove that this southwest port town is more than just a place to celebrate vikings and get elf house tours. In 2014 they delivered the place a reputable rap scene (while tacking on a few extra syllables) with their debut song “Hafnarfjarðapeppin.”
Read the other parts of this 50-band Airwaves Debutantes guide here.
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