From Iceland — Grapevine New Music: Flaaryr, VARNA GL, Mighty Bear & More

Grapevine New Music: Flaaryr, VARNA GL, Mighty Bear & More

Published September 29, 2023

Photo by
Art Bicnick

It’s kind of hard to believe the end of September is already here. That means we’re gonna have to wake up soon, and we just wanna hit snooze honestly. We certainly hit snooze on our usual weekly event roundup yesterday, so our apologies for that. Luckily we have lots of events corralled on our events site, so go check it out. But now it’s time for new music and it’s a great mix this week, with a flavour palette as complex and enticing as pumpkin spice. So pull on your knock-off Uggs, drape yourself in a cashmere shawl, and enjoy our eclectic end-of-month mix. And hey. 66 Degrees of Sound is back from hiatus. If you want to stay on top of the newest releases, be sure to subscribe to the show.

Flaaryr – A pilgrimage seen from two windows (Live at Harpa, Reykjavík)
Released September 22
Flaaryr is a magnificent phenomenon. Artist moniker of musician Diego Manatrizio, Flaaryr’s recent release is from his latest performance at the Upprásin concert series in Harpa. Everything you hear is being produced by Diego, using an electric guitar, an arsenal of pedals, and a sequencer, with most of the sound emanating from Diego’s visionary use of the guitar. Although most people would be annoying with nothing but a guitar and a looper, Flaaryr showcases the creme de la creme of what’s possible with minimal gear, resulting in sounds reminiscent of Windows 95 error popups – except they’re made with vision and beauty. JB

Released September 29
We’ve tracked VARNA’s explosive dawn, releasing singles since this summer off the newly released PILARNGAR. A drummer at heart, VARNA weaves electronic music together with the traditional East Greenlandic drum dance – an act which was passed down from her elders. You can feel the beat anchoring everything on the album, emphasised by rhythmic vocalisations and melodies. VARNA’s album is a captivating piece which, among other things, evokes the grim realities of a colonial past. Pilarngar is released via Marvaða, a recent creative nucleus based in Reykjavík focusing on imbuing their releases with female energy. JB

Julian Civilian – Fyrirmyndarborgari
Released September 29
We haven’t heard from emo indie-punker Julian Civilian in a while, and now he’s back with his first single since 2021 that lays out what kind of civilian he really is. An exemplary one, the title translates to, although knowing Julian Civilian’s track record of melancholy and angsty tongue-in-cheek vibes, he may be taking the piss. Or wishfully thinking. Moving more into early 2000s indie-pop territory than his previously 90s-edgy emo riffs, this really feels like a sad song masquerading as a happy one, even if you can’t understand the lyrics. Seems like eventually those bastards do, indeed, grind you down. RX

Released September 29
In his latest track, Ízleifur asks the ever present question: “Why do I blame myself for things I cannot control?” Who hasn’t been there? Ízleifur surprised me with this track, as I expected more attitude and swagger coming from the young rapper. Apparently, rappers can be introspective and show their soft side too. Although Ízleifur belongs to a Gen Z hip-hop culture which I cannot fully fathom, he conveys universal feelings in this track. Namely, self-doubt mixed with a roaring four-on-the floor bass drum. Turn it up! JB

Viktor Orri Árnason, Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir, Reykjavík Recording Orchestra – Rödd
Released September 29
Close the blinds and light some candles, because this one is set to put you in a complete state of relaxation. Here, composer Viktor Orri is joined by singer Álfheiður Erla and the Reykjavík Recording Orchestra on their first single off their forthcoming album Poems, out November 10. Drawing influences from Icelandic poets spanning a century, Viktor’s and Álfheiður’s music is graceful and gentle stuff. JB

Mighty Bear – Ég er eins og ég er (Í moll)
Released September 29
The bombastic and joyful Páll Óskar banger “Ég er eins og ér er” (“I am who I am”) has been regarded as the queer national anthem in Iceland, every edition of Pride ending with Páll singing it on the mainstage. Iceland currently being unexempt from the terrifying increase in hatred against queer and particularly trans people, genderfluid performance artist Mighty Bear channelled all their anger, pain, and grief into an intensely powerful cover of Páll’s call to acceptance. Set in a minor key and nearly unrecognizable save for the lyrics, Mighty Bear’s version is as emotionally shattering as the original. Albeit heartbreaking rather than a party, it does its source material more than justice and carries the call. RX

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