Pascal Pinon in Grundarfjörður

It seemed that Grundarfjörður was near to nowhere. I had made the mistake of trying to travel to this town/village on the northern edge of Snæfellnes from Reykjavík in an afternoon.

Somehow, I still can’t quite get my head around distances in Iceland. Places that seem relatively near on the map taking forever to get to. Maybe it’s the winding roads, or that vortex that occurs to us Brits when converting kilometres to miles.

Grundarfjörður, home to just under a thousand souls, is the home tonight to Pascal Pinon. Pascal Pinon are an Icelandic band centered around twin sisters, Ásthildur and Jófríður, and little to do with the twentieth century Tex-Mex freakshow act.

They make sublime, exquisite music—the sisters, not the two headed fella—that is both sweet and engaging at the same time. I was in Iceland, they were in Grundarfjörður; there was nothing to consider. I’d be at the concert.

Grundarfjörður sits prettily on a bay, beneath mountains still flecked with the last of winter snow. The sea is relatively calm, with no hint of the herring tragedy that happened here only a few months ago. The arresting sight though is the hulking Kirkjufell (‘Church Mountain’), towering above the towns pretty and colorful houses. It’s 463m tall, and might just be Iceland’s prettiest mountain. It has deep horizontal striations, and the summer has flecked it with shots of green.

Pascal Pinon are performing at Grundarfjarðarkirkja, a delightful church perched on a small knoll above the town. It’s a really lovely building, with white walls, red roof and a spire pointing up to the aqua blue sky. I am starting to feel that the journey was well worth it. I was right.

Pascal Pinon are not alone on this jaunt of Iceland, which has already taken in other beautiful churches around the country. Tonight, they are accompanied by Blásaratríó, a woodwind trio of girls that apparently attended the same music school as Pascal Pinon.

Blásaratríó are first on stage, in front of the audience of all of thirty people. I was a little concerned, to be honest, that their music may be classically perfect, but completely inaccessible. This was particularly the case during the first piece, which included the church organ. I found myself checking my watch. I needn’t have worried, the trio went on to combine bassoon, clarinet and flute to produce beautiful music totally attuned to the surroundings of the church. Furthermore, they don’t outstay their welcome.

Pascal Pinon are soon on stage, and appear relaxed, clearly benefiting from their recent Europe wide tour with Sin Fang. They start off with gentle, melancholic tunes that remind me of Mazzy Star, although the exception to this would be the album opener ‘Ekki Vanmeta,’ which benefits from a fuzzy backing loop that makes it stand out as one of their best songs.

The woodwind trio join them back on stage, and add depth and warmth to the sisters songs, making them ring out into the early evening. In between songs, children can be heard playing outside, and gulls cawing as they wheel around the church. Highlights for me included the sublime ‘One Thing’, ‘I wrote a Song,’ and ‘Babies’ and the songs that were written for—somewhat bizarrely —Fernando Torres, and even stranger, Kanye West.

Jófríður’s voice is extraordinary; sweet, soft and yet full of character. I feel myself falling in love with Pascal Pinon’s music with every song they play.

The evening sun is shining through the stained glass windows, and ricocheting from the brass candles in the church. By the time they are singing the delicious ‘Bloom’, now replete with flute solo and that lovely ‘oh,oh,oh’ refrain from Jófríður, my heart has melted.

On the way back to Reykjavík, I wonder briefly if Kanye has ever heard of Grundarfjörður.

Probably not.


Original article on Iceland Review online.