Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Iceland Airwaves 2011 Day Two
tUnE-yArDs, Niki & The Dove and Clock Opera at Iceland Airwaves
Frank YangRight, so where was I? Oh yes, Iceland. Yes, still. With the (attempted) road trips portion of the trip over and done with, the Friday morning was spent doing a general wander around Reykjavik, taking advantage of some actual sunshine and only a little rain (documentation of which is over at the ever-expanding Flickr set). The weather again turned foul in the afternoon but by that point, we were on an Airwaves press bus tour that took us first to the studio headquarters of the Bedroom Community label, then to the Árbæjarsafn open air museum where we were introduced to the joys(?) of Brennivin vodka and dried fish. The final stop, which had been kept secret, was Nauthólsvik beach, where we were invited to go for a dip in the frigid sea before relaxing in an artificial geothermal spring. I graciously declined. Then, following a memorable three-hour fancy-pants dinner at Dill, located in the Norræna Húsið, it was back to the clubs.
Or the club, as was the case on this night. As far as I was concerned, NASA was the place to be and the huge queue out front proved that hundreds agreed with me. Happily, the VIP/media line was moving reasonably quickly and I got inside just as the mood of those gathered outside started to turn a bit rioty with shoving, yelling and more shoving. Not that it was any calmer inside the jam-packed club, but at least these people were freaking out for a better reason. Swedish electro-pop duo Niki & The Dove were just wrapping up as I got in, but from what little I saw they had star power in abundance. And hula-hoop dancers. Though they’ve been signed to SubPop in North America for a while now, they’ve only just started to release material – a 12″ single back in the Summer and a digital EP in The Drummer released just yesterday – but in occupying a space somewhere between Lykke Li and Florence & The Machine, albeit more synthetically-textured than either, but frontwoman Malin Dahlström has genuine star power and it’s hard not to imagine that by the time their debut full-length arrives next year, success will be theirs for the taking. The Guardian and Chronicle Live have interviews with the band and The Drummer is available to stream.
I’m not sure if Merrell Garbus of tUnE-yArDs counts as a bonafide star yet, but considering she’d guested with Yoko Ono the night before and was one of the festival’s big names, as far as Airwaves and more importantly those piled into NASA were concerned, she was close enough. I’d missed her Toronto show a few weeks earlier, but did have her SXSW show as a reference point. Not that there was any comparing the Central Presbyterian Church in March with the atmosphere in NASA this night – the former was silent and respectful, the latter frenzied even by Airwaves standards – but what was common between the two was an incredible performance. Accompanying herself on drums or ukulele, Garbus led her four-piece band through a clattering, pounding, yodeling, and peculiarly soulful celebration of song while her fans danced and tried their best to sing along. I particularly appreciated the expressiveness of Garbus’ warpaint-decorated face because if there was a running theme with the international acts at this festival, it was how the uncertainty or even apprehension about playing to an audience for the first time transformed into elation at how joyously they were received by the locals. You never get tired of seeing the sideways glances between bandmates that communicate, “holy shit”. Not ever.
Photos: tUnE-yArDs @ NASA – October 14, 2011
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Powa”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Sunlight”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Hatari”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Gangsta”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Real Live Flesh”
Compared to the two acts that preceded them, London’s Clock Opera – another highlight from SXSW – seemed positively conventional. But by any other standards, their balance of electronic and organic rock, of ’80s-ish romanticism, thoroughly modern synth textures and timeless tension-and-release songcraft, was distinctive and bracing. It’s like dance-rock without any of the disco signifiers that that descriptor usually implies, more anthemic and visceral than slick and sexy and there’s more than a hint of Guy Garvey in vocalist Guy Connelly’s delivery. Searching out their own music at the moment can be an exercise in frustration – they’ve a few singles of original material but have their names on many remixes – but when their debut album comes out in March of next year, I predict it will be huge.
Photos: Clock Opera @ NASA – October 14, 2011
MP3: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
MP3: Clock Opera – “Belongings” (live at Maida Vale)
Video: Clock Opera – “Belongings”
Video: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
Video: Clock Opera – “White Noise”
So yes, after a decade and a half of rumours and denials, The Stone Roses are getting back together. There’ll be a pair of homecoming gigs in Manchester next June followed by a world tour and maybe even a new record. You’d think that as someone who ranks The Stone Roses as one of the greatest records ever made, I would find this exciting but the fact is that no one, not even the staunchest fans, could ever claim the Roses as a good live band even in their heyday. Over twenty years later, with John Squire and Reni having largely been out of music and Ian Brown’s solo career being uneven at best, it’s hard to imagine that this will be good, let alone great. But even so, if this tour comes anywhere near – and the words “world tour” certainly imply it will – I’ll be there. Anxious, and not entirely in a good way, but there. The Quietus reports on yesterday’s press conference wherein the four original members announced their intentions and The Sabotage Times better articulates why this reunion might not be a good thing.
Billy Bragg has compiled all the one-off protest songs he’s released over the past decade as well as a few new songs and has released them as Fight Songs. Something to put on the boombox, perhaps, whilst occupying a place of your choosing. The Sabotage Times and Brooklyn Rail have interviews with the Bard of Barking.
Pop power couple Emmy The Great and Ash’s Tim Wheeler have teamed to release a Christmas album entitled This Is Christmas, the first MP3 from which you can download in exchange for a Facebook like. It will be released on November 21.
Stream: Summer Camp – “Down”
Video: Peggy Sue – “All We’ll Keep”