You would be daft if you think you could go to Iceland and not come into contact with incredible music. Unless you listened to nothing but the radio stations, that is.
Iceland in May is a curious concoction of near 24 hour brightness, strong winds, and rising river levels. The Glocal Scene team reunited for the first time in a few years to visit this high-latitude isolated island for a non-musical related getaway. However, Iceland is not your typical holiday retreat, nor is it a typical country. The fact that the whole island only has 320,000 inhabitants and more sheep and horses than anyone would care to mention means that there is a feel for the place that is not in keeping with many other countries. The fact that 80% of the population live in Reykjavik and the remaining 20% live in an area smaller than Kentucky (and around half the size of Great Britain), and their high geographic location, may transpire to give Icelanders a strong national identity and sense of devil-may-care attitude; especially when it comes to music.
Samaris are a clarinet, vocals, and loop based band that are set to release their first full length this year. This young band has been gathering steam with European performances and winning Icelandic experimental music awards, all off the back of one release; Hljóma Þú EP, a three track plus remixes, is worth a purchase for the haunting “Góða Tungl” alone.
The low population and geographic isolation probably pushed Iceland into taking on the most remarkable push to let the world know of its artists. The country takes pride in exporting its fine array of musicians (and there is great diversity, don’t let the thought of Samaris, Bjork, Sigur Ros, etc, fool you). The Iceland Music Export website gathers all the latest musical offerings from the island (through the help of private and government funding). They also put out a Made In Iceland compilation (of which they are five so far – I don’t think they are quarterly (they are only 320,000 people after all), which features the best in contemporary music. The latest compilation is an 18 track audio experience available to listen on soundcloud (featuring the superb Samaris and the stunning Sóley). Visit the website, then book a plane to Iceland – you will not regret it.
[The Glocal Scene team rented a (cheap and old) 4×4 in Iceland in order to head off to the volcanoes via rising glacial rivers on rocky roads of boulders and dust. We didn’t quite realise how cheap and old our vehicle was until we picked it up – no AUX jack, no CD player were available. Just tapes. Cassette tapes, remember those? Our CDs and Mp3 players were as much use to us as vinyl. There was the radio of course. A well known guidebook describes Iceland’s radio service as ‘mind-numbingly repetitive,’ and they are not far off the truth. Add in ‘many hours consist of obscure 80s album tracks of power ballads you’ve never heard of’ and ‘many Icelandic covers are played of poor one-hit wonders from the 70s’ and ‘for a long stretch of the south part of the island you will only get the Christian station that only plays a recording of Mass on a Sunday’ and you will probably have found a decent description. If you visit Iceland and rent a vehicle, enjoy the scenery, take in the wonderful music on offer, but for the love of Bjork find one that can play vinyl.]