Iceland Airwaves: In the Studio, Part 1

While attending the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik earlier this month, we had the unique opportunity to visit bands in their rehearsal spaces, their recording studios and even their living rooms to catch an inside glimpse of the country’s diverse music scene. Here are a few of the highlights:

Bloodgroup – My Arms

Not as creepy as the name might imply, this electro-dance four-piece are bonded by blood… family blood. Siblings Lilja Jonsdottir, Halez and Raggi Jonsson, along with Janus Rasmussen, all hail from a small town in Iceland and create upbeat dance music that has drawn comparisons to The Knife, LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip and other booty shake-inducing groups. Their 2007 debut, Sticky Situation, was quite well received and their live shows can be explosive, typically inciting the ecstatic fans and band to crowd surf. Their latest single, “My Arms,” which they performed for us in their studio, shows an equally beat-driven but more melodic Bloodgroup, and could be a big hit in the U.S. [MySpace]

Mammút – Rauðilækur

One of the tightest bands I saw play Airwaves, the Reykjavik-based Mammút consists of five members all in their late teens and early 20’s. Katrína “Kata” Mogensen (vocals, accordion), Vilborg “Ása” Dýradottir (bass), Alexandra Baldursdottir (guitar), Arnar Pétursson (guitar), and Andri Bjartur Jakobsson (percussion) write and perform songs that would easily appeal to American audiences despite the consistently Icelandic lyrics. Sharp guitars, thudding bass lines, typically pop structured rock songs, and most importantly a killer voice from Mogensen, who was nominated for best singer this year during Iceland Airwaves (their album, Karkari, was nominated for best album) all contribute to a really appealing sound that KEXP listeners would surely dig. The band invited us to their practice space to record this live version of “Rauðilækur”:

Kimono – Tomorrow

Kimono is a bit more of an international band. Not only does one of the trio (Alex MacNeil) hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but the band lived for a while in Berlin, where they garnered favorable media attention. Their sound is heavier and more experimental than either Mammút or Bloodgroup, and definitely darker, but there’s still a pulsating vibrancy that keeps them from sounding too bleak, weary or uninteresting. Quite the opposite, in fact! At their rehearsal/recording space, which they share with another good Icelandic band, Jeff Who?, Kimono performed a newer song, “Tomorrow,” from their upcoming album, Easy Music For Difficult People:

Check back for more recordings from Sin Fang Buos, Pascal Pinon, Skúli Sverrisson and more!

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