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The Scene in Six Sounds: Iceland

It’s Wednesday, which means our Ireland-based music guide, James Hendicott is back for another round of The Scene in Six Sounds. Last week he took us of South Korea that went way beyond K-Pop, today he’s out to prove that there’s way more to iceland than icebergs and Bjork…

The Scene in Six Sounds: South Korea
By James Hendicott
Best known for geysers, hot springs, icebergs and going completely bankrupt during the recent recession, Iceland’s perhaps not the first place you’d go to hunt down cutting-edge music. It turns out you’d be wrong: not only is Reykjavik home to the kind of nightlife that makes you want to emigrate, the haunting sounds of some of the island’s most heartfelt singers are heard around the world, gracing our TV soundtracks and chilled out venues more often than all but the most passionate connoisseur could ever realize. Though home to many musical stylings, Iceland has recently become something of a world center for impassioned minimalism. Museyon has the lowdown:
The Quirky Princess: Björk
Eclectic, colorful singer-songwriter Björk is full of personality, storming the international music scene with her eccentric dress sense, experimental sounds and genre-blending output. The difficult-to-define musician dabbles in anything and everything, and has won 13 Grammy Nominations for her efforts. Single ‘Declare Independence’ has proved a political weapon, having been dedicated over the years — and often controversially — to Kosovo, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

The Haunting Heroes: Sigur Ros
Perhaps the only major international act ever to become famous despite often singing in a language they themselves made up, Sigur Ros are the modern-day darlings of the Icelandic music scene, producing startlingly ethereal, minimalist sounds that have popped up all over the place since the stunning ‘Hoppipolla’ became the title track to the BBC’s Planet Earth documentary series.

The Metal Maniacs: Solstafir
There can’t be many metal bands with a name that means “radiating sunbeams”, but there is at least one: Solstafir. A thrashy outlook on music combined with prolific Internet file sharing have bought the band to the world’s attention; they were once described ironically by metal lovers ‘The Heldriver‘ as “Oasis, if they were a completely different band, with different members, playing different music”.

The Modern Classicists: Amiina
Frequent performances with Sigur Ros have evidently rubbed off on this all-female, string-focused ambient group, who recently caused a stir by playing a series of sensationally atmospheric gigs in churches and cathedrals. Amiina are well known for their instrument swapping, tending to move around the stage and change instruments throughout their eerie, minimalist songs.

Ice-Cool Rap Rock Meets Hip Hop: Quarashi
An unpredictable rap group who incorporate heavy-rock riffs and dance samples into their music, Quarashi have a phenomenal local following, and are perhaps most comparable in terms of musical output to Rage Against the Machine. As the first rap group to ever find any notable success in Iceland, and are the centre of something of a cult love in, though they split back in 2005 and are now each producing solo efforts instead.

The ‘Stoner Rock’ Stars: Brain Police
Named after a Frank Zappa track, Brain Police play stretched, strained vocals over fast-paced rock riffs, and have made regular assaults on the Icelandic charts since the release of single ‘Jacuzzi Suzy’, despite early problems with finding an appropriate vocalist. They now represent Iceland on the international stage, touring with the likes of Metallica and Mastodon.

James Hendicott is a travel and music writer living in Ireland, and your guide to Celtic punk in the Music+Travel Worldwide from Museyon Guides. More of his work can be found at hendicottwriting.com. And be sure to tune in next Wednesday, for a new local playlist.
image: diluvienne/Flickr

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