For the second year in a row, we return to Reykjavik, Iceland, for the Iceland Airwaves festival starting today and running through Sunday. Last year, we had no idea what we were getting into but were immediately struck by the incredibly diverse music of local bands. With a national population of barely half of the greater Seattle area but a staggeringly high literacy rate and a tendency to support all areas of artistic endeavor, Iceland boasts a high concentration of musicians — many of whom are in multiple bands at once. Yes, think of Ballard as a frosty island nation.
Since punk first took hold of the city, its central tenets have remained strong — not the later interpreted tendency to piss off one’s parents but the necessity to do something different. No two bands in Reykjavik are alike. There’s just not enough room! And that has led to a microcosm of music found nowhere else.
Last year, we caught up with a handful of bands at RUV radio, the nation public radio service, and broadcast these sessions back in Seattle — from the instrumental post-rock of For A Minor Reflection to the punky artistry of Agent Fresco and the electronic dance pop of FM Belfast. It was our first foray into Icelandic music, and Einar Orn, elder statesman — figuratively in punk as a founding member of The Sugarcubes and currently as a city politician — was our host.
Over the weekend, we met up with more musicians in their studios, practice spaces and even their homes. You can watch a few of the sessions here and there will be plenty more from this year to follow.
We’ve just landed here in Iceland and right away we head to the living room of Ólafur Arnalds and then to the studios of FM Belfast and Amiina. Tune in tomorrow on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole for session from RUV Radio with Who Knew, Seabear, and what should be an amazing set with Jónas Sigurðsson.
For a preview of those artists and others performing this year’s Iceland Airwaves festival, check out our latest Music That Matters podcast: Iceland Music Express.
For now, here are a few more videos from last year: