[16 October 2013]
If I could really walk between New Zealand and Iceland (or take a bus at least), I would be amazed. It seems I make a habit of catching artists from either country though. I’ve attended the New Zealand Showcase at (le) Poisson Rouge the last two years, so I decided to go again this year. And I heard that a new artist Ásgeir, would be performing with a special guest at an Iceland Airwaves showcase. I’m not getting out to that festival at the end of the month, so this might be the closest I’ll come to it.
New Zealand Showcase at (le) Poisson Rouge:
I arrived in time to see Eden Mulholland, a duo that were added to the bill as a replacement for an act that couldn’t get visas in time and who have released their first album Feed the Beast in July. The crowd was pretty thin for their set but they seem like they know what they are doing. Unfortunately, Mulholland, the lead singer, was suffering from laryngitis and had to refrain from talking much.
When Streets of Laredo, a New Zealand band now living in Brooklyn, took the stage, the first impression I got was that they were the Kiwi version of The Lumineers, a band I’ve seen several times. I may not have been too far off with that guess as the self-described “family circus of gypsies & ragamuffins” worked a lot of rootsy instruments into their set. I was enjoying their set as were the couple in front of the stage dancing a jig. They group has only released a short EP so far, simply entitled Volume 1 and if they don’t make money from performing, the male percussionist could at least fall back on web design—he jokingly plugged his company’s services while the band was tuning between songs.
Ghost Wave’s debut album Ages is the first release on the renowned New Zealand label, Flying Nun in a long time. The band hails from the City of Sails and seemed very comfortable on stage, practically rock stars already, with the lead singer tossing a tin of mints into the crowd (he avoided people) and another guy cracking his tambourine. Their sound has been described as between the “Flying Nun bands of the 80s, the British explosion of the 1960s and the wayfaring dubs of Lee “Scratch” Perry”.
One Little Indian / Iceland Airwaves Showcase at Thompson Hotel:
Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson is an Icelandic singer whose debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn won an award for ‘Best Album of 2012’ in his home country. The original is sung in Icelandic, and I didn’t realize that instead of just bringing over that version, Ásgeir has redone his songs in English with the help of John Grant and plans to release it as In the Silence. I hadn’t known any of that before his show, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. My first thoughts of his keyboard/synth driven music was that it sounded somewhat like Grant’s music, though less dense. Ásgeir and his bandmates went acoustic for one song, which sounded great and showed the artist has more dynamic range. It will be worth watching out for him especially when the English language album releases.
Ólöf Arnalds performed a solo set on her acoustic guitar that showcased her lyrics and her light style, (which stands in contrast to her cousin Ólafur Arnalds, who often makes deep, brooding songs) in the dark corner of the venue (hence the very poor video and no photos). Her set was very lovely however and the lyrics moving though it got a bit hard to hear at times, enough so that Arnalds joked if the audience would rather hear her or hear the chattering from the bar. She’s prepping her first English-language album now (her first two are in Icelandic) and you can get a free download of her new The Matador EP over at Bandcamp.