2014 has been a year of live music in Iceland, with Summer Solstice, ATP Iceland and the evergreen Iceland Airwaves showcasing the very best of international and Icelandic artists. Icelanders have also stolen a march on the global music scene too; Samaris played seemingly every country, Ásgeir continued the success of his ‘in the silence’ album & Ólafur Arnalds grabbed a BAFTA for his Broadchurch soundtrack.
With Icelandic heavyweights Sigur Rós, Björk and Of Monsters & Men having a fallow year, the stage was wide open for some great new Icelandic music. We weren’t disappointed either.
Rökkurró – Innra
It had been four whole years since Rökkurró’s last album, Í annan heim, which found the band a wider audience for their melodic semi-acoustic loveliness. Rökkurró eventually returned with Innra after nearly a year of much teasing; including releasing singles such as the sublime ‘Killing Time,’ limited edition releases and numerous photos of the band eating ice cream. It was worth waiting for though; Innra has a more electronic sound than previous incarnations, and the band’s sound is much bigger generally, but Hildur’s sweet-yet-powerful-voice soars above the extra synths. A clear highlight is ‘White Mountain,’ a song about inspired by television series Game of Thrones.
Kiasmos – Kiasmos
Despite being labeled “only a project,” Kiasmos have produced one of the best albums of the year. A partnership of BAFTA award-winning composer workaholic Ólafur Arnalds and Faroese electronic musician and sometime member of Bloodgroup, Janus Rasmussen, Kiasmos produce experimental, intelligent dance music with Ólafur’s neoclassical trademarks never too far away. ‘Thrown’ is a slow-building piece, whilst the ambient piano start of ‘Looped’ breaks out into something much more urgent. This is thrilling stuff, probably aided by the freedom of being ‘only a project’ and away from the heavy weight of expectation.
Óbó – Innhverfi
Innhverfi is apparently a play on the Icelandic words for ‘introvert’ and ‘suburbs,’ and you can immediately see why. Óbó, actually Ólafur Björn Ólafsson, is very much an introvert: there’s nothing showy about this album. This is a quiet, often dark affair that has been released without fanfare. It’s a shame, as Óbó has put together a collection of seven intriguing, off-kilter vignettes. Some are murky, intimidating slow burners, such as opener ‘Úthverfi,’ and others are wonderful instrumentals such as ‘Stilla.’ But the best feature is Óbó himself, with his gruff baritone—especially on the Sparklehorse-esque ‘Rétt eða rangt’ and the violin-accompanied last track, ‘Gullregn.’ Óbó has worked with Sigur Rós, Jónsi, Emilíana Torrini, slowblow, Benni Hemm Hemm, múm, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Úlfur Hansson and Valgeir Sigurðsson. Innhverfi is all his own.
Originally published by Iceland Review.