From Iceland — Straumur: Icelandic Hip-Hop, A Cinematic Journey and Sónar Reykjavík

Straumur: Icelandic Hip-Hop, A Cinematic Journey and Sónar Reykjavík

Published December 6, 2016

GKR, the rapper named “artist to watch” at last year’s Grapevine Music Awards, made good on his early promise last month by releasing an eponymous EP, ‘GKR’. The rapper is in his early twenties, and made a name for himself with his lyrics’ sense of existential anxiety and acute eye for the minutiae of everyday life. This character runs through the EP in old favourites like “Morgunmatur” (“Breakfast”), and his remix of “Elskan af því bara,” a single from the masked mystery band Vaginaboys. It’s clear that he has gained some confidence in the past year—just note his assured delivery on “Tala um.”

He also has a keen ear for choosing the right producers and banging beats, as heard on the grinding club thump of “Slæmar fréttir,” the ever-moving organs of opener “Velkomin” and the liquid synth waves of “Lifa lífinu.” The album is deftly sequenced, beginning with a “Velkomin” (“Welcome”), and ending on an encore song, the tongue-firmly-in-cheek “Meira” (“More”: the Icelandic chant for an encore at concerts). The lyrics go: “I want always more, enough is never enough, I will never quit, If you tell me to relax, will not do it!” The EP is a compact nine songs, with not a dud among them. You can download it free of charge at GKR’s website, or buy it in the form of a cereal box (a nod to his breakthrough hit).

More hip-hop! Icelandic musician Dýrfinna Benita raps under the name Countess Malaise, and released her first song and video in November, entitled “Goth Bitch.” Dýrfinna’s vocals, delivered over a bouncing trap beat produced by Lord Pusswhip, are both haunting and to-the-point. The video was made by Dýrfinna and Valdemar Árni Guðmundsson.

Last month also saw the release of the song “Brenningur” by Ambátt, featuring Mammút songstress Katrína Mogensen. It has a low-key, crawling bassline and gentle electric guitar picking, along with a trip-hop beat, and Katrína’s sultry cooing to pull it over the top. It’s an atmospheric and cinematic journey that sounds Scandinavian in the best The Knife/Trentemöller sense of the word.

The Sónar Reykjavík Music Festival is set to light up Harpa from February 16-18. They just announced the first confirmed artists to perform this year. We’re excited about their impressive roster of international and domestic acts, with a wide focus on electronic music and multimedia projections. Legends like Fatboy Slim, Moderat and De La Soul will be joined by Ben Klock, Forest Swords, Tommy Genesis, Helena Hauff and B. Traits. From the local scene, Emmsjé Gauti, Aron Can, Kött Grá Pje, FM Belfast, Samaris, Sin Fang, Glowie, Øfjord and sxsxsx are all playing. Celebrating its fifth Reykjavík edition, Sónar has, in a remarkably short time, become one of the highlights of Iceland’s annual festival calendar.

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