The Winter freeze has finally come to the UK, so as we prepare for grit shortages and frozen pipes, what better time to look North, to the land of fire and ice for some inspiration and new music?
With a reputation for diverse independent music, Iceland shares more in common with the UK than is perhaps obvious. Despite our lack of volcanic activity, the UK and Iceland are both island nations, sitting in the Atlantic to the west of Mainland Europe, both with their own historical and cultural links to the US and other parts of Europe. It shouldn't be surprising therefore that Icelandic music and counterculture shares some features with that of the UK, whilst being divergent enough to provide something refreshing and new to UK ears.
Heading up our list of new blood is the aptly named Bloodgroup, pictured above. Fans of North European electronica such as The Knife, Björk and Robyn, or indeed Manchester's Hurts, will probably warm to Bloodgroup immediately with their up to the minute yet accessible references to electronica and dance, haunting vocals and complex synth textures that would make Gary Numan proud. Listen to the title track of their "Fall" EP (out 4th February) below.
Next on our list, and staying with clever electronic driven pop (with the UK Premiere of their new video!) is Sin Fang, possessing a freshness and clarity to their sound, that makes for very a listenable experience. Sin Fang's third album "Flowers" is produced by Alex Somers, notable producer of another successful Icelandic export, Sigur Rós. Watch the euphoric "Look At The Light" below.
At the other end of the musical spectrum is Pascal Pinon, formed around 18 year old twins Ásthildur and Jófriður, who make honest stripped down acoustic music not unlike Sweden's First Aid Kit, but with an ethereal sound and manner distinctly their own. Their upcoming album "Twosomeness" (out this week) focuses on their poignant experiences as twin sisters entering adult life.
Showing a more 90s US influence, and proving there is more to the Iceland scene than synth and folk, Oyama's warm slabs of fuzz pedal distortion allow for moments of introspective shoegazing, reminiscent of pre-Nevermind era Sub Pop output.
Catch Oyama live next month, including UK dates:
14 Feb - by:larm Festival, Revolver, Oslo
15 Feb - Club NME, Koko, London (supporting Bleech)
16 Feb - Joyzine, Brixton Windmill, London (supporting Arrows Of Love)
17 Feb - BRNLV Club, Oxford Cellar (supporting Mat Riviere)
18 Feb - Artrocker Radio, Resonance FM (Live Session)
The more diverse bands on our list of emergent Icelandic talent include analogue/digital worshippers Apparat Organ Quartet - well worth a listen for those that still miss Add N to (X) or The Rentals.
The Heavy Experience appear to offer a musical response to Iceland's brutal, yet beautiful, landscape. They describe their music perfectly as a "...blend of saxophone driven drone, spaghetti western and blues. Divine doom blues!" Watch their stunning video for "In The Gulf" below. Their debut EP is due for a worldwide release soon.
Finally, and with another beautifully scenic video (below), we have the brooding, stargazing, spine tingling, orchestrated electronica of Úlfur. For fans of Haxan Cloak and similar dark instrumental new music.