Category Archives: iceland

Review: Oblivion

Oblivion
Oblivion by Arnaldur Indriðason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only noticed that it’d not read this book when tidying up my wish list, hastily ordered because I couldn’t believe I’d missed another instalment of the ever pensive Erlendur. It didn’t take long to realise that this was a prequel, the book cover features an eerie looking blue lagoon, not the fun n frolic-y one we’re used to seeing in tourist photos, and as the first crime unfolds it becomes apparent it was set before the blue lagoon existed as a private entity.
The story (or stories as there is never just one thread in these books) are centred around activity related to the air force base at Keflavik, a murder and a missing persons cold case. This gives you some insight into Elendur’s fascination with missing persons whichs is a constant thread woven throughout the later series even if you’ve never read any of the other books that reveal the whole back story. So you can read this as a standalone book and not feel like you’re missing out. The other story is investigated mostly by Erlendur’s mentor, Marion Briem – which again fills out some back story missing from the later set books. I’m hoping that this continues – as I feel that this would be a really interesting addition to the series. I dont want to say much about the story as I feel that this would spoil the plot too much, but as usual the plot is a slow boiling stew with the tension mounting more than I expected towards the final few chapters and I really didn’t want to stop reading but had to go to work!

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Airwaves 16 – Days 1-2

Because I really haven’t had the time or energy to blog daily  🙂

Day 1 – Wednesday

A first for us this year was arriving the first day of the festival rather than a day or two before. So it was fairly late Wednesday when we got our wristbands and as a result we didn’t see very many bands, in fact we sort of saw one off venue band – VAR and despite how much I love them, the venue (bar 11) was awful, unless you were 6 foot plus you weren’t going to see anything, and for me there’s nothing more annoying that someone (or 3) shoving past you to get closer, who then puts ear plugs in – seriously go home.

Snorri Helgason & Mr Silla

So we chilled out for a bit then headed to see Snorri Helgason at NASA, or as the other half calls him (and his band) the Snorri Helgason Good Time Band. Really upbeat and with Mr Silla on co-vocals for several songs we loved it. So it turns out that half the band are also in Tilbury (I did not know this until now) who were on just afterwards – strange band, half look like they belong in a 70s metal band and the lead singer with his snap back like he should be in a rap group – but neither of these apply – really amazing uplifting vocals and streaming guitars. But we were totally knackered so left part way through.

Day 2 – Thursday

We started the day really lazily, taking a walk around the harbour and grabbing brunch at Fredrikson Ale House – we highly recommend this place, the portions were huge (think 8 pieces of bacon!) and kept us going until evening. We then headed to Harpa as we’d won tickets to an exclusive session with Mugison, courtesy of Nordic Playlist. With only 30 audience members and a backdrop of Reykjavik through Harpa’s amazing windows it was so cool – we heard a few well known tracks and some new ones from the album released this week, we must remember to get a copy before we leave.

We then headed to Bryggan Brugghus to see Mr Silla perform off venue as a solo artist, although she was accompanied by her husband on stage. Again, mind blowing vocals, different arrangements of song I know and love. She also tipped us off to another band she was performing with today – Throws, a UK band with one guy from Sheffield and the other who lives in Reykjavik.

So for our evening entertainment we started at the Reykjavik art museum for JFDR, aka Jofridur from Pascal Pinon, Samaris and Gangly. This was her solo stuff and it was a haunting and melodic as Samaris. We then quickly headed off to Hurra for The IllIs, a Slovakian band. I would like to peg them as metal, but they had moments of dreamy pop melodies that were then interrupted with the crashing guitars – they were so energetic and fun. And on their final song one of the guitarists handed his guitar to the guy next to me in the audience so he could rock out, this was hilarious as the guy like me clearly did not know what to do with it! If you ever get the chance to see these guys then do – they really know how to rock a party!

The Ills @ Hurra

We then arrived at Gamla Bio whilst Hannah Lou Clark from the UK was playing, highly popular it would seem, as afterwards the venue practically empty. So we waited for Throws – worth noting Gamla Bio has the BEST free wifi I’ve ever experienced that doesn’t require signing up for something/tedious registration process.

Throws absolutely killed it. They started with a male voice choir of at least 15 members who were all very impressive, then slimmed down to the two of them plus two drummers, who were so energetic I felt sweaty just looking at them, then Mr Silla popped in for a track or two in the middle before finishing back with the choir who some of which were drinking beer at this point! Fab evening, danced loads, smiled even more, went back to our apartment exhausted.

 

Culturenator’s guide to Airwaves

Well why not? Everyone is doing it these days, I feel like the last 2 weeks have been a constant stream of recommendations for bands to see, bars to visit, ad infinitum. This will be our 4th Airwaves (we’ve already decided next year is go), and by no-means do we feel like experts but still I feel like sharing some of our favourite places, bands and tips for making the most of your 5 days of non-stop aural excellence the city of Reykjavik provides.

On venue / off venue – what is it?

Quite simply put on venue is the official Iceland Airwaves schedule, it what you need your wristband to get into. The off-venue program is the plethora of ‘unofficial’ pop up performances that happen in almost anywhere imaginable from hostels, bars, banks, clothing shops to barber shops. These are free and open to anyone and mostly occur during the day. In places such as Lucky Records the off-venue program starts on the Monday, as Airwaves officially starts on the Wednesday.

The essentials

So you can do this the old fashioned way with the paper version of the planner or you can get with the kids, download the official airwaves app and stay plugged into social media. Key people to follow are the airwaves official accounts and the Reykjavik Grapevine – these two will keep you in the loop with schedule  changes (the app will send you 15 minute reminders for any show you mark as wanting to see, as well as push notifications of any cancellations, should they arise) and the latest news related to the festival. The grapevine also publishes a special Airwaves edition (physical newspaper) that is free – pick up from various locations downtown.

Rythmatik @ Iceland Airwaves 06.11.15

Planning

Basically our advice is don’t get too hung up on schedules and planning, as anything could happen – you could stumble upon a band you’ve never heard before then precede to chase after their 10 off venue shows, or a show could be running late because the drummer forgot his kit (it has happened before). You’d have to be one lucky person to not have a single schedule clash for any artist you want to see, and the best made plans can be blown away. But if there’s someone you really want to see, our advice is to get there at least one band before – turning up 15 minutes before they’re due to go onstage may mean you are right at the back with a limited view, that’s if the venue isn’t too full and you can’t get in at all. Also getting there for a band before, that you’ve not heard of is a good way to seek out new music. The off-venue shows can be a different beast, with people so desperate to be down the front for a free, tiny venue show, that even the band struggle to get on to the stage to perform (yup, saw this at one of the hostels on the main street).

The weather

As any Icelander will tell you, the weather is incredibly changeable and can turn on click of your fingers. Wear layers, so that when you get inside you can strip off to cool down – as it will inevitably get really warm inside. Thankfully venues in Iceland are not so strict (as the UK at least) and most don’t require a pat down/bag search which means entry is swift and you don’t have to worry about your multiple layers and 20+ pockets!

The music

There are many ways to find the new bands, here’s a playlist of a few of my favourites / who i’m hoping to see this year – enjoy!

 

More on That Iceland…

Shameless plug klaxon!

One of the photographs I’m exhibiting as part of Oxford Artweeks’ in May is this image of Lómagnúpur. It’s definitely one of my personal favourites as it shows the rich colours of the Icelandic landscape, draped in black, green and gold.

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An additional opportunity to exhibit at Oxford Town Hall is through a competition being run by the Poseytude Gallery entitled ‘Change The World’ which asks for works that reflects changes in the world today:

We live in a changing and ever more challenging world. Our environment and resources are being depleted and nature with the elements of air, wind, fire and water is testing us. Our countryside is being reduced due to meet rising population and seaside being eroded due to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns….What would you want to remind people of the beauty of our planet? Tell us through your art medium and briefly in your words how we can use or be inspired by it to make a change.

The top 8 artworks in each category through voting on social media will be exhibited, with judges decided the top three and there are prizes for those but honestly, just the thought of exhibiting in such an amazing venue would be prize enough. So I’m asking my lovely followers to consider voting for my photo (and you can re-vote every 24 hours!), I’m currently in 12th position, overall but no idea how I’m doing in my category, voting ends on the 24th April.

We also had to provide a blurb to go with our artwork (see below). I decided to submit one of my Icelandic landscapes partly because I’ve been following with interest the ongoing  subject of the Icelandic Highlands. If you’re a fan of Iceland or Bjork you can’t fail to have missed the events to promote awareness of the potential destruction of some of Iceland’s unspoilt nature in favour of power plants, there is now a campaign to turn the highlands into a national park.

Lómagnúpur
Iceland is famous for its outstanding natural beauty which attracts hundreds of thousands visitors each year. However this doesn’t stop the threat of destruction to nature, in particular the Icelandic highlands which have limited protection, the government has plans to build power plants and erect power lines, potentially destroying large areas of nature. Here is Lómagnúpur, part of a protected national heritage site in Iceland, an example of the nature that could be destroyed.
So if you feel like giving my photo a vote the link is here* and if you want to find out more about the Icelandic Highlands click here and sign the petition   here !**
*although the competition takes you to facebook, you don’t need facebook to enter, just a valid email address
** Google chrome recommended for translating stuff

Of Monsters and Men – Beneath The Skin

I know this album has been out going on for 9 months by now (in fact my procrastination skills are so on form, I just found an 8 month old draft… oops), but seeing as I’m not the sort of person who gets advance review copies, there was no way of pushing something out around the time of release. I also believe that these things take time to sink in and be fully absorbed – I can tell you that Crystals, which started out as a firm favourite in the beginning (released almost a year ago this week!), went to being at the bottom of the pile, then back up into my top 3 (maybe). Initially I loved it because it was new,  in terms of UK releases, the newest single in 3 years, then once the entire album was released I preferred other songs as they were newer, but then in late 2015, possibly after seeing it performed live I fell in love with in all over again. The huge swelling drum beats that start the song before Nanna’s vocals win me over every time. It was also used for a Disney film about dinosaurs which I have not seen.

Of Monsters and Men

Black Water was another instant favourite, I used to sing this in my head whilst I was swimming in the summer and found it was good for focusing, except where counting how many laps I was doing was concerned! Also the lyrics felt like they could have been written about the characters in the book series I reading within the supernatural genre which was an unusual twist. Wolves Without Teeth might just be my number one track though, again the drum beat starts up and it could be the rhythm of the beast running – now I’m in training for a 10km race later this year, this track is on my essential playlist as the beat is spot on for me. However Slow Life is a track that took until this year to really gain a place in my heart, I think maybe because it feels to me like a real winter tune, and here in Oxford at least, winter didn’t really kick in until February. The whole feel to the album is a generally more larger, all encompassing sound, the music press would probably say it’s a more ‘grown-up sound’ but that would also imply that the previous album was immature sounding? they haven’t lost their playfulness which is part of why I love them. There’s still plenty of creatures as metaphors à la Dirty Paws.

 

As I mentioned above, I travelled to see OMAM in concert back in November, as now we live in Oxford, a lot of bands don’t play locally, particularly non UK bands (where as in Manchester, most bands if playing outside London will play there as well). We live equilateral travel time from both Bristol and Birmingham so chose Bristol as my husband has never been, and also it was a Friday night rather than midweek which didn’t require time off work which is always a plus.

The gig itself was amazing, even if the venue was not. The band played their socks off, the sound was possibly better than on CD, I don’t know why I’m always amazed by how good Icelandic acts sound live, maybe I’ve seen too many poor bands or bands in bad venues? Or maybe they’re all just so good at what they do… Anyway, the only downside, was missing part of the gig – how did this happen you ask? well the doors opened at 6:30pm, usually gigs open the doors at 7 or 7:30pm with the main band being on stage at 9pm – and either 1 or 2 support acts on, curfew is usually 11pm unless it’s a Sunday – I say usually because me and my husband have collectively being going to gigs in various cities since the 1980’s and this is the only time we’ve come across a gig for all ages that the curfew was 9:30pm, I shit you not! So after finding our hotel, dropping our bags, rushing to find somewhere to eat quickly, then heading to the venue, stupidly thinking we might catch the end of the support act, we walked in part way through King and Lionheart (full set list here) Because as it turns out that in order to maximize profits, the Bristol O2 academy does a club night every Friday opening at 10:30pm – this is not something that is communicated to attendees despite it being highly unusual for a gig venue as speaking to other gig goers who’d also travelled from various cities in the UK they were all equally surprised. The venue was also overcrowded and a potential fire hazard IMO, with staircases that led to fire exits jam packed and impassable, and did I mention some parts of the room you can’t even see the stage?!… but I digress. Of Monsters and Men and their touring band played so amazingly, my favourite part was when Nanna took the drumsticks and started pounding what I think was a Timpani drum with a look of pure mischievousness on her face, before rushing back to get her guitar strapped back on to finish the song! which may or may not have been Crystals… I really hope I get the opportunity to see them play again with this album, but at the moment it seems to be festivals only and no mention of an Airwaves appearance yet (I was praying for last year, as they had two empty tour dates during Airwaves, but I guess everyone needs a break!

 

 

Decision time

I’ve been busy this week trying to select between 4-6 images to get printed for Oxford Artweeks in May. I’m exhibiting with a group of 9 other photographers who know each other through the Oxford Flickr Group (anyone remember when Flickr group meets used to attract upwards of thirty photographers of a wide range of knowledge and skill?) and we’re privileged to be exhibiting in the Mathematical Institute aka the Andrew Wiles Building, part of the University of Oxford.

One of the main challenges for everyone involved is that the hanging space is fixed to a size of A0 in a portrait dimension. This means that we either have to: present portrait images in a large scale format, present multiple landscape images within the the same frame, still at a fairly large scale or become creative with our presentation methods and present multiple images of varying sizes within the frame.

 

Lómagnúpur

So far I haven’t moved much past the point of selecting images, and I need to get a move on because my regular, tried and tested printing company currently have an offer on large scale prints which means I can do some test images without breaking the bank too much.

I’ve included a couple here for perusal, in case you hadn’t guessed I’m choosing to display some images from my road trip in Iceland that I blogged about many months ago.



On the road

I’ve been asked many a time why Iceland? I’m not sure I know myself yet. What I do know is that I’ve met physically and in the realm of the internet many people who become self confessed ‘Icelandophiles’ falling instantly in love with the island, it’s culture, landscape, people and particularly the music. For me it was definitely more of a slow burner, I’ve always been much more of a city gal. Prior to visiting Iceland some of my favourite places were New York, Prague, Paris. Cities full of people, places full of bustle, sensory overload where I could find my inner calm and joy at the same time.
But then until this last visit, I’d not experienced the same ‘small fish in huge pond’ sensation that excites me being in a city, in a barren and empty landscape before. Because that’s how it is to me, I’m still the outsider, sitting there quietly observing, even is that something is not ‘doing’ very much.

Now I feel its time for bed, to sleep and think some more about this.

Adios.

Airwaves15 – Day 2

So its actually the last day of airwaves, and I’m still back filling from day two. So day two was a day of off venue venues we’d not been to before, starting with Eldsmiðjan (a pizza restaurant) for Elin Ey, it was quite surreal as people were eating their lunch, and people packed on the staircases whilst waitresses squeezed past with trays of food. Elin Ey is one part of Sis Ey, but her set today was acoustic and down tempo, a stark contrast to the upbeat electro sound of her band. She also threw in a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams which was so chilled and oddly perfect for the strange surroundings.

Elin Ey, Iceland Airwaves 05.11.15

Next we headed to Bio Paradis, a cinema that also has a gallery space – there’s a group show on at the moment, mostly 2D media, worth checking out if you’re still in Reykvavik. We came to see Sekuoia from Denmark, acoording to the bio, Sekuoia is just 1 guy, but there were two performing today, maybe that’s just for the live version? There were a few technically issues (such as the sound cutting out completely), but they smiled and got on with it, chilled out beats, sort of reminded me of Royksopp, but not.

Sekuoia, Iceland Airwaves 05.11.15

Next stop was Galleri Fold, next door but one to the infamous Lucky Records (whose Off venue program lasts a full weel). We’d never been in here before because it’s always had that vibe of posh commmerical gallery. We stayed for two bands here – the amazingly prog rock Electric Space Orchestra, whose intruments included a digeridoo and the theremin. They were followed by Black Desert Sun who were more traditional rock metal.

Electric Space Orchestra, Iceland AIrwaves 05.11.15

Next up it was time for some on-venue action, so we headed to Harpa, starting out watching a band trubotharnir by accident, as the sign posts outside the rooms were incorrect, no offence to this band, they sounded great but we were wanting to check out Borko next door.

Always a humerous performer and once again flanked by trombones and trumpets, Borko got our spirits lifted with tunes such as Ding Dong Kingdom and Sing To The World and it was all too soon before he was departing the stage.

Borko, Iceland Airwaves 05.11.15

Next up was Low Roar, which as the name might suggest, sound like a low roar, lo-fi, but I’m afraid their performance didn’t set me on fire – somewhat lacking the roar bit. This was despite having enjoyed listening to some of their tracks on Spotify. So if i’m honest, waiting for Mercury Rev was like torture. But eventually we were put out of our misery, and Mercury Rev burst onto the stage in spooky smoke, throwing long shadows around the stage.

Mercury Rev, Iceland Airwaves 05.11.15

They were nothing short of amazing, Jonathan Donahue’s flamboyant gestures and performance were show stopping. The only suprise for me of the set was that they didn’t bother with recent single ‘Are You Ready?’ (was it really a single? it had a video release, which makes me think it kinda is). And I also didn’t really expect them to play my favourite (Little Rhymes) – but this didn’t stop them being a favourite of the festival.