Julianna Barwick has returned with the single ‘One Half’. Off the forthcoming Icelandic influenced Nepenthe, the lead video offers a shift in style and an interesting interpretation of personal duality. The two halves of Julianna’s self occupy vastly different places; one in a halogen lit empty car park and the other in a lush, surreal forest populated by a psychedelic cake. The song, while utilizing the same looping ambiance, uses discernible vocals as elements in the layers. They’re structural, less as lyrics to tell a story but an functional part of the tonal whole. It’s charming, etherial as always, but somewhat grounded by the tangible english.
The whole album isn’t as different as ‘One Half’, with much the rest of the album remaining true to what you’d expect from Barwick’s shimmering vocals. A few tracks feel heavily influenced by the Icelandic recording location, the hand of producer Alex Somers and cameos by members of local heavyweights Mum & Amiina. ‘Pyrrhic’ feels the most imbued by the land, built out of sighing strings, high choral vocals and an enveloping ascending melody akin to Sigur Ros’s finer moments. The album on the whole works, both newly arrived elements and familiar ones.
You can stream Nepenthe over at NPR Music. You can also pre-order the album via SC Distribution. First run of the vinyl comes in a limited edition gold and includes a poster worthy of the Icelandic tourism board.
In the long ago days that we called 2006, the stars aligned, money appeared and I secured a press pass to Iceland Airwaves. I flew alone to Reykjavik and took in the festival. It’s always a well curated affair that takes over most of the small 101 district. The charm lies in the close proximity of all the venues, the beauty of the city and the kindness of the locals. The first night I met a couple who offered up great conversation and a couch to crash on, as my hotel was a bit of a hike. Had this been America, I most likely would have woken up in an ice bath without my kidneys. In addition to the main venues, there are tons of off-venue events which offer up many chances to discover and repeatedly see local Icelandic acts. The weekend contained what I still regard as one of the best shows of my life: Wolf Parade supporting Apologies To Queen Mary in a packed tiny club called Tuborg. I forgot my press pass would get me to the other side of the divider, but I contentedly enjoyed the nearly too loud set pressed against the barrier. Afterward with my ears still ringing, I took my rental bike into the dark of the suburbs along the water. The streets were desolate, yet still felt safe and I could see the northern lights faintly above the horizon. Probably one of the better evenings of my life.
The festival ended with pages of notes and even a few interviews on tape. I returned to the US to no job and little motivation to write. Quickly, I woke up to the press deadline looming above my head and no place to publish the words I had yet to write. Cutoff passed and I can only guess that my name is still on the blacklist they warned about.
I still love the festival and this 39 minute documentary is a loveletter with a great selection of interviews and performaces from the last 10 years of Airwaves. Here’s hoping that this post can work to repair the damage I did 5 years ago by not promoting the festival then. Sorry, Iceland!
Also, extra apologies to Skakkamanage and þórir from My Summer As A Salvation Soldier. I interviewed you guys because I was a fan and I’m sad I never did anything with it.
Here’s the video I shot at local record store Skifan of Skakkamanage performing “OFC’s”
An update to earlier post regarding the tantalizingly ‘free’ Sigur Rós & Björk show to be held in Reykjavik this weekend (June 28th). The good folks at National Geographic will be webcasting the show for all to see.
Tune into National Geographic Music from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET (begins at 8 p.m. BST/London or 7 p.m. GMT/Reykjavik) to see, as they put it on their site…”some Björkage“.
Beyond music, one of my favorite things is graffiti and street art. Living in Los Angeles, I do appreciate the amount of great graffiti going on out here. For Taking Tiger Mountain, I’m starting a new bit to focus on good graffiti around the net (as well stuff I see day to day, once I get a new camera).
For the first one, I’d like to throw some light on the Icelandic graffiti scene. I’m a fan of most all everything Icelandic (except maybe Hákarl) and thanks to the magic of the internet I found a fantastic Flickr stream of graffiti pics from around Reykjavik. Flickr user Orgelpianoman brings us a ton of great shots of the Reykjavik scene. I saw a bit of what the city had to offer when I was there in ’06 (the pic at the top of the post is one of mine), but as a local he gets into the hidden away spots to the good stuff a tourist wouldn’t feel comfortable sniffing out.
Björk, Sigur Rós, & múm participant Ólöf Arnalds will perform together in Reykjavik June 28th in an effort to raise awareness for the growing environmental crisis. While this concert takes place in one of the more beautiful spots on Earth, the ultimate issue with it takes to transport folks from around the world to Reykjavik might create a worse dent along with the awareness. I wouldn’t fault you wanting to go anyway. It’s free, except for the $600+ plane ticket.
Instead, you can check out the recent DVD release of Screaming Masterpiece. The documentary, which focuses on the the ever intriguing Icelandic music scene hit the shelves back in ’06 and features live clips from a variety of the country’s top talent.
As an added consolation prize, here’s a track from Sigur Rós’s upcoming LP Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. The simple song, almost completely unadorned by Rós-ian standards, lets the acoustic guitar provide most of the backing for Jonsi’s ever otherworldly voice. A promising prospect for the new album, which releases on June 24th via XL.