Top 10 from Iceland Airwaves 2010

Wow, this was rough to narrow down over 300 bands to my top ten from Airwaves 2010, but here they are, in no particular order:

1. Moderat (Germany)
I unintentionally stumbled upon this band because they followed another act I saw, and I soon found their music inescapable. Besides inducing seizures, the melodramatic dark electro gave us blinding strobes, intense visuals, and deafening bass that still has my ears ringing. Pair this with the musicians, themselves, who stood rather motionless behind mixers and computers the whole time. Somehow, it was all amazing.

2. Nive Nielsen (Greenland)
This girl-next-door sweetheart of an artist from Greenland (the only artist from Greenland) played indie-folk with her little red ukelele and backup musicians. Her witty lyrics and positive energy uplifted everyone in the room.

3. Ólafur Arnalds (Iceland)
Even though he told the audience he had just finished playing techno earlier, this artist’s delicate symphonic compositions brought many people in the audience to tears. Joined by chamber, strings, and discreet electronics, his music was breathtakingly awesome.

4. Agent Fresco (Iceland)
My initial impression of this band was met with confusion and intrigue because of an inability to categorize the band (jazz rock? metal? funk? volcanic rock?). Frequent rhythm changes, complex and compelling guitar work, and polyrhythmic rock characterize this band’s music, which includes one of the most deeply emotional and spasmodic performers I’ve seen in a very long time. Lead singer Arnór Dan Arnarson drew people in, leaving everyone breathless. Their acoustic samba session was as moving and impressive as their larger, more hardcore, rock out session of crowd surfing and fist pumping.

5. Amiina (Iceland)
This low-key, cheerful female quartet create pretty, twinkling lullabies. Their live music proved to be much better suited for a smaller venue, but the larger venue afforded more space for the large crowd they attracted. Their delicate, mystical music was silencing and mesmerizing to watch onstage. Joined by Kjartan Sveinsson (Sigur Ros), their performance featured a beautiful, fairy-like girl sliding a bow across a giant saw, which added a bizarre element to the soothing calm they had created.

6. Captain Fufanu (Iceland)
These two young lads brewed some fresh and solid deep dub/experimental electronics behind those mixers. Although the two stood behind their equipment the whole time and rarely engaged the crowd, their building music helped take care of that. The confidence I developed in their talent was quickly reinforced when I spotted Björk at one of their performances.

7. FM Belfast (Iceland)
Hands down, they were one of the most entertaining acts to grace the stage at Airwaves. I liked the fact that I was completely unprepared for them, so when they started jumping around and removing their clothes, I got the shock they were going for. These guys are masters at creating a party atmosphere.

8. Mammút (Iceland)
This band was one of the most solid Icelandic musical acts. They dressed up in costume and face paint, and the singer, Kata’s voice was just so adorable and beautiful to listen to. I loved her pronunciation of Icelandic, with her emphasis on certain words and sounds. Even though I didn’t know the significance of the lyrics, I was still totally intrigued by it. The performance was packed with energy, and their songs lingered in my head long after the show had ended.

9. Hundreds (Germany)
This brother-sister duo performed a special show at Vesturbaejarlaugin (pool) Reykjavik, which proved to be the perfect place to hear their music for the first time. Eva Milner’s beautiful Dido-like voice and natural grace was complemented by her brother Philipp’s interestingly-arranged electronics. The duo’s performance at Vesturbaejarlaugin sounded great, even underwater… actually it was really surreal that way.

10. Ghostigital (Iceland)
This was another slightly odd group, consisting of Einar Örn Benediktsson, a musician who worked with Björk, his son, and several musicians (including ex-Sugarcubes drummer, Sigtryggur Baldursson). Einar’s son, the trumpet player, was one of the members of Captain Fufanu I had caught earlier. This performance could only be described as obscure but cool and hilarious at the same time – electronics with strangely humorous and sarcastic voiceovers, trumpet, and amazing drumming. At the end, the whole audience was invited onstage to dance with the group.

Beyond these 10, there were numerous other talented acts at Airwaves, many of whom are on the road to musical success thanks to this festival. Without a doubt, there is a mutual love of music that exists at Airwaves, and it’s one that is unlike any other.

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About Christine Thelen

Christine is a music writer, photographer, and English teacher living in New York. She's been writing for Short and Sweet since 2008 but writing about music since 1999. She loves photographing and interviewing bands most of all. Notable interviews include Underworld (England), Supergrass (England), Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (Wales), Hefner (England), Zero 7 (England), Nylon Union (Slovakia), Clinic (England), Hundreds (Germany), Nive Nielsen (Greenland), Alcoholic Faith Mission (Denmark), Captain Fufanu (Iceland), and the Postelles (NYC). Watch her on the ShortandSweetNYC Youtube Channel.
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