Iceland Airwaves Day One (11/4): Skelkur i Bringu, Hekla, Nordic Affect (REVIEW)

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8:00// Skelkur í bringu at Gamla Bíó

According to Skelkur í Bringu’s Facebook page, their hometown is Hell. Though they claim that, the psychedelic punk band is actually from Iceland. The three piece band mixes vocals with the traditional guitar, bass, and drum set…

Though two men and one woman played on the stage. Right off at the first song, the focus was on Steinunn Eldfaug. Her vocals were high pitched and heavy. She demanded attention. Though the venue was intimate and the light show was a little distracting, the sounds continued to stay big, and attempting to hypnotize the listener they fell short. Instead of a melodic siren sound, it sounded like ambulance sirens.

There was also no connection between artist and listener. Sure, the beat called for head banging, but it didn’t keep you glued to the venue. It was just one song after another, and felt a little like listening to their album. There was no personal touch to the show.

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8:50//Hekla at TJARNARBÍO

Listening to a theremin immediately causes goosebumps. The raspy opera sound that it expels alerts to every sound in a room, not only to the hum it creates but the sounds of other people. Hekla, a Spanish Icelandic musician, is self taught on the theremin and released her first EP in June of 2014. Her songs are haunting, they sound like the beginnings to something frightening happening. Hekla played next to the water in the Tjarnarbío. The venue was in a huge dark room, with rows of seats behind a couple yards of space in front of the stage. The seats were full. The theremin sat in the middle, center stage bathed under blue light, while fog danced around it. 

To watch anyone play the theremin, especially Hekla, was breathtaking. The movements between the instrument’s wires was almost like a dance. Each finger flick of shake somehow became graceful, even when she was antsy and being timid while ending and starting a new song, fans seemed enthralled.  Her fingers shook while she focused completely on changed sounds. Her hot pink nails created a beautiful contrast between the traditionally masculine instrument.

Hekla’s EP is great, but seeing her live is better. When she played live she put every piece of herself into the show. She made methodical movements to made the best sound she could, and you could see it. The sounds she produced were hypnotizing and her voice went smoothly over each droning howl. She also played the perfect amount. Her set only lasted 20 minutes, but in those 20 minutes the audience was completely awestruck by the sounds she was calling from the instrument.

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11:20// Nordic Affect at Harpa Kaldalón

Nordic Affect is a creation of composer María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir. The all female trio of strings composed of a cellist, violist, violinist, and harpist met met in 2005 after completing their studies in music with the goal in recreating 17th century dance music. They released their latest album, Clockworking, in July of 2015.

The Harpa Kaldalón is a tall venue. The seats all stack on one another so you can see the show, but still feel like your seeing the show with other people. Nordic Affect was amazing. The way the women moved their bows and manipulated their instruments was something I hadn’t seen before. The crunching noise, which is made when the musician applies too much pressure on the strings, was embraced in the first song they played, “Rain Damage.”

Though sometimes violinist Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir can be overwhelming, she led the group in beautiful quilting between 17th century music and recorded sounds. All women played gracefully and fearlessly. Between pieces that only featured the violin, from one where they had three more vocalists humming behind their own instrumental, the women produced a show that was worth seeing. 

*** Earlier in the day…

I think where you take your first breath affects how you’re going to live. When I stepped off the plane in Iceland it was dark. At 7:03 I took in a gulp of fresh Icelandic air and immediately  regretted it; my lungs hurt. It was still dark out, and it was cold. The kind of cold that settled into your bones and refused to shake out.

After wandering around Reykjavík studying the streets, we settled ourselves in front of Sundhöll, the oldest pool in Iceland. The first thing that popped into my head was “Oh my God I hate my body and I’m going to have to be naked in front of strangers.” In Iceland you have to shower in the nude before you get into the pool. It’s a rule that helps keep the water clean.

We walked down the stairs into the changing rooms. A cluster of young girls were laughing and changing, and I realized one of the younger girls was my locker neighbor. We asked her about swim lessons, and she was very kind. She was laughing and joking with her friends. While she was laughing, I looked around, turned red, and told myself “You’re from a house of all girls. You do this all the time. No one cares.” I started talking to anyone who would listen, validating that I was strong enough to do this, to change in front of other women with the same body issues as me.

The discussion switched to body image quickly as we all stripped down. We talked about how in the States people are more shy about their bodies. I looked at my own thighs, and nodded. Without realizing I noticed the young girl was still listening, and absorbing our conversations.

“You don’t have to be shy about it!” She gleefully spoke up. She asked why you would be shy. I tried to come up with the right words.

“I’m from the United States, and it’s just a weird thing in the States. I don’t really know why.” I tumbled over words, and realized she was growing in a totally different culture when it comes to the body. She was growing up understanding and realizing that everyone has a body, and everyone’s body was different and that was okay. She didn’t want to burn down the house she lived in. She, like her first breath, wanted to sit in your bones and celebrate every stretch mark, and rib, and bruise because why wouldn’t we?

This entry was posted in Daily Blog, Iceland Airwaves, Iceland Airwaves 2015, Live Review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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