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Iceland Airwaves 2016: The 25 Most Exciting Performances

on November 07, 2016, 6:30pm
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Gangly

The Real Magical Mystery Tour

nina corcoran consequence of sound gangly 01 Iceland Airwaves 2016: The 25 Most Exciting Performances

Photo by Nina Corcoran

Though they arrived hot on the Icelandic scene without announcing their identity, Gangly were eventually revealed to be a supergroup comprising Sin Fang’s Sindri Már Sigfússon, Samaris’ Jófríður Ákadóttir, and Oyama’s Úlfur Alexander Einarsson. That they can still operate with a sense of mystery after the anonymity veil was lifted (once you perform live and unmasked, it can be hard to keep up that ploy, especially in a community as tight-knit as the Iceland music world) is a testament to the mystique of their slow-burning electronic R&B. They also continue to draw massive crowds to their intermittent performances (including more than a few other major musicians noted upon a quick scan of the room), even on the back of only two officially released songs in as many years. They do promise more material, and the duality of Einarsson’s vocoder-laden vocals and Ákadóttir’s rime-covered croon, the bewitching “Fuck With Someone Else”, and the interpolation of “No Scrubs” all bode well for a strong individual identity beyond their main bands, whenever that day may come. Like the black and gold 3D-generated animations project behind them, Gangly deliver something incredibly opulent but more than a little cold.

–Adam Kivel

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Berndsen

Synthpop for Hangovers

nina corcoran consequence of sound berndsen 01 Iceland Airwaves 2016: The 25 Most Exciting Performances

Photo by Nina Corcoran

Rain fell down again Saturday morning. “Who has a hangover?” Berndsen asked, scratching his red beard. Hands shot up throughout the lobby that he and his band were playing in — a combination hotel loft, art space, and coffeeshop. “We’re going to cure your hangover,” he said with a grin and a nod. Like that, he peeled the mic from its stand and began pulsing in front of the store window singing “Supertime”. It doesn’t take long for Berndsen to climb through the crowd, belting notes out like Iceland’s own Matt Berninger without the levelheadedness of The National, often flitting into a vocal range on par with Robert Smith of The Cure, though perhaps that’s because the synths that hopped beneath him sounded like The Cure, too. It seems unlikely his blend of snappy electro-pop would ever cure migraines or drowsiness, but after each song, audience members began yelling out thanks, noting they felt better.

–Nina Corcoran

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Leyya

Experimental Electro-Pop

nina corcoran consequence of sound leyya 01 Iceland Airwaves 2016: The 25 Most Exciting Performances

Photo by Nina Corcoran

Even though it’s stuffed with variations and options, electronic music is difficult to style in an original way. Those who find their voice within the genre pick and choose, merge and mash, pulling a style from a digital instrument that rings truly as their own and theirs only. Vienna-based group Leyya manage to do exactly that within the alt-rock electronica realm. Faced with a large crowd at Harpa that only grew bigger, Leyya parted from their poppy sound on record to burst with a tougher edge in Iceland. Maybe it was the explosions of “Superego” or the creepy inching of “I’m Not There” that collapsed into a gorgeous storm of digital dust. Maybe it was the heavy crunches of “Butter” paired with the frontwoman’s sweet falsettos. Whatever it was that Leyya imbue in their music — that individualistic combination of groove, beats, and guitars — drew onlookers into the room, convinced them to stay, and had them clapping ravenously long after the band left the stage.

–Nina Corcoran

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Conner Youngblood

Master of Instrumentation

nina corcoran consequence of sound conner youngblood 01 Iceland Airwaves 2016: The 25 Most Exciting Performances

Photo by Nina Corcoran

Conner Youngblood, the 25-year-old Texan native turned Nashville bedroom pop musician, stood on one of Harpa’s stages with endearing nerves between songs. “I don’t know what else to say about myself,” he said, head bowed with a smile spread across it. “I like dogs!” he offered. The crowd cheered; though, they would probably cheer no matter what. Thanks to his dreamy, layered music, everyone — even those sitting on the floor in the back — were in a trance. Youngblood filtered melodies and beats on “Confidence” and “A Summer Song” with the ease of tUnE-yArDs but the calmness of Sylvan Esso. And while his intimate songs certainly aren’t simple, they charm with utter ease, even when the guy’s sandwiched between rock acts and dance-heavy groups as he was at Airwaves. Altogether, Youngblood’s set stood out as the moment of rejuvenation many festivalgoers sought.

–Nina Corcoran

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Warpaint

Atmospheric Landscapers

warpaintliorphillips05 Iceland Airwaves 2016: The 25 Most Exciting Performances

Photo by Lior Phillips

American and English acts tended to draw pretty heavily at Airwaves, and Warpaint’s Friday night set at home venue Harpa may have been one of the most difficult to get into. Listen: It may have been more of a challenge to get a ticket to see Björk, Múm, or PJ Harvey, but in pure physical body-space logistics, cramming through Harpa’s halls with the eager Icelandic fans to catch sight of the California quartet was not for the faint of heart. Those that made it through the claustrophobic confines were treated to a smoky, sultry set, and roared in appreciation for classics old and new. The propulsive “Undertow” remains an absolute stunner, but standout tracks from Heads Up like “Whiteout” and “New Song” received similar adulation. This was the band’s first time in Iceland, and the crowd made sure to give a warm welcome, the energy clearly fueling one of the groovier rock sets of the week.

–Lior Phillips

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