It’s great to back at Airwaves, I think as a fresh shower rolls off the sea and straight down the back of my neck. This is typical Airwaves weather.
I’m warmed slightly by Dream Wife, formed between Reykjavík and Brighton and surprisingly energetic for a damp Thursday afternoon. Similarly, Amabadama is piling quite a crowd and deploying its own brand of Icelandic reggae to warm up the punters in the American Bar.
Hildur causes the damp audience of 12 tónar to give off steam with her energetic solo show. More electronic based than with her usual band Rökkurró, the highlight is always when she lets rip with that sweet, strong voice, and we are not left disappointed. She thanks the staff of 12 tónar for their help on launching her musical career, but I bet that she’s far from the only one.
The heat is applied further by Tófa, whose punk pop seems even more intense in such a small space. I fear for the windows which are clearly reverberating. I heard that the band held a yoga session earlier in the day; I can’t imagine how this would have worked out. It is the least relaxing music I can think of, but here the crowd is loving it and it’s huge fun.
Sóley performs in a cramped Mengi, having possibly chosen a venue just a little too intimate. She performs under fairy and candle light, with a drummer and bass guitar adding depth to her twinkling piano and hushed delivery. It is truly spellbinding, especially the Tim Burton-esque ‘One Eyed Woman.’ She is joined by accordion, clarinets and cello for a four-song set of new music from her upcoming and unreleased new album. ‘Queen of the Night’ stands out, although Sóley herself admits that becoming a mother might cause her to write ‘mummy music,’ i.e. happier songs. She need’'t worry. Finishing with a beautiful ‘I’ll Drown’ and ‘Endless Summer,’ it is a wonderfully special show.
JFDR is lost in a half empty Reykjavík Art Museum. Jófríður might have had better luck with her other projects - Gangly, Samaris - in filling the cavernous space, but her breathy vocals seem to be competing with the over-enthusiastic drummer, who echoes around the room. It feels a lot like watching a rehearsal. She picks up towards the end, especially with ‘White Sun,’ but otherwise this was a real shame.
It turns out that I may have been a little harsh on JFDR, as Julia Holter doesn’t fair well in the Art Museum either. Her avant-garde pop, seems somehow muted here, except for the shrieking interruptions of saxophone. She plays a polished set, mainly drawn from her Have You in My Wilderness album, but she seems too distant and I can’t seem to connect to her.
This is the Kit
I decamp to Iðnó, one of my favorite venues, to grab a slice of wonky English folk from This is the Kit. Essentially the project of Kate Stables, from Bristol via Paris, but fleshed out to a four piece, they are warm, engaging and delightful. Their recent album Bashed Out was produced by Aaron Dessner from The National, and I’m sure they are destined for great things. Iðnó fills to the rafters with a toe tapping, happy crowd. In a truly English style, Kate announces that This is the Kit tea towels are available to buy at the merchandise stand.
Hannah Lou Clark
Hannah Lou Clark is at Gamla Bíó. She plays good old fashioned indie pop that is brash and proud, and sung with feeling. Her set is short and sweet, but none the worse for it. Surprisingly good.
Oh my gosh! How good are Throws? Starting with an Icelandic male voice choir for ‘The Harbour’ and then weaving what can only be described as magic. Throws are Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders, previously of Tunng, and supposedly the project is just the two buddies catching up after some time apart. It’s all about texture with Throws; that, and making sure there is a damn good beat to dance to. There’s a spoken word piece, a female vocalist, a folky number, Sam’s newly found falsetto, but always a fresh joyous atmosphere to proceedings. Slightly wacky folktronica, anyone?
The male voice choir reappears for the final song, which has the refrain ‘I hope that we learn something, something from this.’ It’s chanted by the band, the choir and the crowd, hands held aloft. It’s quite the moment, and the band leaves the stage, leaving the choir and crowd to continue. It might just be the best moment of Airwaves ’16, if it’s not too early to call.
Sin Fang is closing the stage, but struggles against the gauntlet that Throws have, well, thrown down. It feels a little like a damp squib.
Edward Hancox - edhancox(at)live.co.uk
Edward Hancox lives in in the United Kingdom with his wife and two small, noisy children but spends as much time as he can in Iceland. Music—especially contemporary Icelandic music—is his other passion. He writes about both subjects for Iceland Review and in his debut book, Iceland, Defrosted. He does not consider himself an expert on anything.