KEXP Live at Iceland Airwaves 2017, Day 1: Between Mountains

Photos by Jim Bennett

We opened this year’s broadcast live from Kex Hostel at Iceland Airwaves Music Festival with a newer Icelandic band, Between Mountains. Hailing from the Westfjords, the promising new duo were this year’s winner of Músíktilraunir, a youth-focused battle of the bands (similar to Seattle’s Sound Off!), which has been a stepping stone for many notable Icelandic acts, such as Vök, Mammút, Agent Fresco, Of Monsters And Men, and Samaris. Though only in their mid-teens, the young women of Between Mountains have songwriting chops and lyrical maturity well beyond their years. Katla Vigdís Vernharðsdóttir and Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir’s voices fall together beautifully into soaring, effortless harmonies over warm, rich piano, jangling percussion, and xylophone. Their brand of melodic dream-pop is quirky without feeling contrived, with a sound that wraps you in a warm blanket of unspecified mid-2000’s indie nostalgia.

The crowd was still filtering in as Between Mountains began to play, the room quickly packed with attendees hoping to catch a glimpse of Iceland’s next big thing. They opened with “Tonight,” with gentle, melodic keys highlighting their high, pure voices, and sweet harmonies reminiscent of a piano-laden First Aid Kit. The only sign that they might be even a little nervous was when talking to the crowd in between songs, but while playing they had the cool confidence and polished sound of seasoned professionals. “Lost in Space,” a narrative of young love, maybe a summer fling, and the feeling of grief experienced once they’re gone. By this point, the crowd was stone silent and almost absolutely still (aside from bursts of applause between songs), entranced by their angelic voices and graceful music. Their closing song “Into the Dark” was more beat-driven than its melodic predecessors, marked with dreamy harmonies and the chiming of the xylophone. By the time the set ended, Kex was full and the audience was roaring—I think we all knew that we had witnessed the beginning of something very special.

Next on the broadcast is Icelandic singer-songwriter Sóley, beginning at 3:30 PM local time/8:30am PST/11:30am EST, be sure to tune in on air or stream live on Facebook!


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