Tag Archive for 'Tófa'

Radio Kampus. 5th July 2017

It’s my second week in Washington D.C. and sadly, due to a mix-up at Radio Kampus, my second pre-recorded show didn’t go to air. Still, it’s here in all it’s glory for you as a podcast. We have 2 finalists for the Scottish album of the Year, including the eventual winner; some new Mogwai; and some wonderful ambient music too. Enjoy.

1. Cate Le Bon – Wonderful (Drag City)

2. Ela Orleans – Dionysus (Night School)

3. Omar Souleyman – Khayen (Mad Decent)

4. Liam J Hennessy – Over the Bay (Sound in Silence)

5. Tófa – Yours is Ours (Self-released)

6. Olga Wojciechowska – Abandoned Words (Time Released Sound)

7. Sacred Paws – Strike a Match (Rock Action)

8. Max Richter – Infra (Deutsche Grammofon)

9. Dmnsz – G (Pointless Geometry)

10. Mogwai – Party in the Dark (Rock Action)

11. Olivier Messiaen – Oraison (EMI)

Radio Kampus. 28th December 2016

This week’s show was pre-recorded in a 6-year old’s bedroom in Airdrie in Scotland. Yes, I’m home for the holidays. If you listened live to the show on Radio Kampus, I was sitting in my parents’ house listening along with you. I hope, despite the absolute train wreck of a year it has been, you enjoyed a listen back over some of the notable music of the year.

Tonight’s show features a rather descriptive track by Stanley Odd – from the very town of Airdrie where I’m now sitting. We’ve got some music from those we’ve lost – Bowie, Prince, Viola Beach, and Leonard Cohen, and we’ve got some music from my favourite records of the year. Have a great new year celebration and let’s hope 2017 isn’t such a dick, eh?

1. Stanley Odd – It’s All Gone to Fuck (A Modern Way)

2. David Bowie – Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) (ISO Records)

3. Radiohead – True Love Waits (XL Recordings)

4. Prince & The Revolution – When Doves Cry (Warner Bros.)

5. Minor Victories – Cogs (PIAS)

6. Tófa – Cowering (Self-released)

7. Deerhoof – The Devil and his Anarchic Surrealist Retinue (Lado ABC)

8. Teenage Fanclub – The Darkest Part of the Night (PeMa)

9. Baloji – F.I.N.I. (Island France)

10. Anna Meredith – Taken (Moshi Moshi)

11. Viola Beach – Swings and Waterslides (Fuller Beans)

12. Resina – Dark Sky White Water (130701)

13. Leonard Cohen – Chelsea Hotel No. 2 (Columbia)

Iceland Airwaves 2016: Saturday

14718151_580607975470363_4957381961782919168_nI write my final dispatches from the front lines of Iceland Airwaves, not from the trenches but from the aeroplane sent behind lines to retrieve us weary travellers. Saturday was a somewhat different experience to the days that preceded it being, as it was, the day I had to set aside my afternoon for more pressing record label business. Sadly, I then missed the off-venue program I had set aside for myself and chained myself, metaphorically speaking – I don’t have one of those briefcases you see in spy movies, to the laptop.

When I did venture outside, like a bunny rabbit after a particularly violent storm, nose twitching, eyes curious, I found myself downtown in Gaukurinn. Ok, yes; this was the third time this festival that I heard the fantastic Tófa, but it was their only on-festival show and I rather fancied it. They opened with Fightgirl and the sound and energy was immense. 10 minutes later, all was silent. Gaukurinn this year has been a technical mess. Coals, Tófa, and Go Dark, all suffering from power outage problems. Something to be looked at next year, I suspect. Nonetheless, Tófa owned the stage.

To my shame, I missed the excellent Tonik Ensemble (featuring too many fireworks’ own Jón Þór) earlier in the week, so I made sure to be in HARPA to see the second show. I arrived, however, in the midst of Gunnar Jonnsson Collider’s set; a collection of ambient, electronic – almost post-rock – pieces which, alongside the stage visuals, took the proverbial breath away. Tonik Ensemble took to the stage with their own visuals and a harder beat. I was a little underwhelmed when I saw Anton play on his own in Warsaw recently, but tonight – flanked by guitar and bowed bass, he is on top of his game. A beautiful, understated and at times powerful set. I was – and, I must confess, still am – unaware why Ben Frost didn’t perform (I must really find that out, mustn’t I?) but his replacement, FM Belfast member and damn fine performer in his own right, Hermigervill did a fine job. An electronic set that would have been a match for many later in the evening.

In amongst all of this, I was lucky enough to bump into the rather laconic figure of Gazeta Wyborcza’s Łukasz Kaminski, and we walked together to Iðnó for Anna Meredith. While there we were joined by TBA’s Tomek Nowakowski and bumped into 5000 Management’s Andy Inglis. Anna Meredith is incredible. Andy described her in a message this morning as “extraordinary” and I completely agree. The music has an intensity I’ve rarely experienced in a live band and the musicians with her verge on the virtuosic. I can’t stress enough how anyone, everyone, reading this must listen to her album, Varmints, now. I’m serious. Stop reading this and go find Varmints, listen to it, then come back and continue. Ok, go…

…right, you’re back. Bloody marvellous, isn’t it? Scotland’s album of the year, don’t you know.

From idno, we moved across to NASA for Mr. Silla, the solo project of Sigurlaug Gísladóttir from múm and it’s all very pretty, soothing music, but it feels like an anticlimax after the previous show, so we moved on to Gamla bíó for Gangly. Gangly are an Icelandic supergroup (in as much as an Icelandic group really can be a supergroup given they all play in each other’s bands anyway) featuring Jófríður of Samaris, Sindri of Sin Fang, and Úlfur of Oyama. I wasn’t fussed for Gangly, but was convinced by Tomek’s enthusiasm and I’m glad I followed along – it was lovely, low-key, downbeat r&b.

From Gangly to the performance of the festival, FM Belfast’s headlining show at HARPA. It is is exuberant, exciting, ebullient, and exhausting in the best possible way. It is impossible not to grin until the face hurts as the band perform and I’m only sad that it will likely be another year until I see them play again.

It was time for bed, or so I thought. On my way home, I decided to pop in to Gamla bíó to catch a little of Sykur – a favourite from past festivals. Not only were the band on top form, but I bumped into the Tófa guys and hi-jinks ensued. A lovely way to end the festival and a delightful, enticing, invite to return next year. I’m sure, as much as one can be, that I will.

Iceland Airwaves 2016: Friday

Lake Street Dive

Lake Street Dive

It has often been remarked by those in the know that Iceland Airwaves, and the week in which it resides is something of a nihilistic bubble. A place to retreat and forget about the problems of the world for a few days in a fog of booze, pills, and music. With the world seemingly collapsing around our ears – a depressing US election, a backlash in the UK to a ruling that “Brexit” must be approved by Parliament, and a frankly absurd bill put forward in the Polish Parliament setting women’s rights back another couple of decades – it’s comforting to be able to disappear into this Airwaves-flavoured cloud – which is all the more fitting, particularly with that Polish bill in mind, with the number of female-fronted bands on the schedule this evening.

It all begins, for me at least, at Loft, on the 4th floor, as Tófa do their noisy, punky, ferocious vulpine thing. Fronted by Allie Doersch, the band play much the same set as at 12 Tónar yesterday and Allie’s voice is a knife to the harsh, rough skin of the guitars. A blistering performance. It’s drummer Joi’s birthday. Happy birthday, Joi.

From there, Ola from too many fireworks suggests we go see a Polish band, Deer Daniel, who have come over to play a couple of off-venue shows. This is a tactic I’m astonished more Polish bands don’t employ. The first songs I hear the band perform are pretty though uninspiring. Tepid indie-folk, all acoustic guitars (and ukulele bass, ye gods!), country-fiddling, and earnest lyrics. There is a brief pause and the guitarist picks up a stratocaster, and it instantly becomes more interesting. subtle delays, reverbs and melody back the singer, and suddenly the band has an edge not found in the previous songs. If Deer Daniel continue down that particular road, they’ll be one to watch.

Too many fireworks’ very own Jón Þór was next, around the corner at Bíó Paradís. He is performing to promote his new e.p. released on the label next week and he has copies of the 12” for sale, and by goodness did he sell it. Hampered by a sound problem or two, the band hurdled these quickly to tear through songs from the debut album and the new e.p. Stelpur, as always, was a highlight – a tale of summer excess, to soundtrack this festival of wintery debauchery.

Suð followed Jón Þór. The singer performs in a baseball cap, tells us he is doing so to be contrary to a friend who believes this is a crime. I suppose if your name is Durst, that’s probably quite true – though I imagine his music would be criminal with our without the hat. Suð, on the other hand, are noisy and melodious. No crime here.

I’m not sure why I expected to get in when I arrived at Kaffibarinn to listen to some of the best music on the Bedroom Community label but the optimist in me persisted and so I queued. The small venue, as you would expect, was heaving full, so I listened from outside the door to some enticing prepared piano from Sam Amidon but the noise from the bar became intrusive so I left to have a wander.

In quick succession I passed by Magnetosphere: electronic, soulful female vocals, 10-a-penny here in Iceland at the moment; the ubiquity of this style leaves little to get excited about. Steinar: A young singer, famed in Iceland for his R&B-influenced tunes. A little forgettable, I’m sorry to say. Wayward: beautiful country-tinged melodies with sweet, honeyed harmonies. I didn’t stay long, but I’ll return to them some time in the future. And The Living Arrows: An American band who seem to swap instruments for fun – and, my stars!, there’s a saxophone.

A couple of Icelandic pylsur to get the energy levels up and it was time to get the evening started. Sadly – as with Bedroom Community yesterday – I wasn’t quick enough on my toes to get tickets in the hand-out for the múm and Kronos Quartet performance but the bands I did see more than made up for this.

At HARPA, the almost ghostly presence of aYia took to the stage, fronted by a singer who crept around the stage like a Grimm’s tale witch, clad in a black and red. The music is eerily beautiful in a manner that Debut-era Björk would be proud of, I’m sure. Another favourite followed, the Icelandic / UK band Dream Wife: a band begun as an art project and now life imitates art. Noisy, loud, aggressive, and powerful; not to mention fun. Dream Wife for life, indeed. Their latest single, FUU, will – I’m sure – get further play on my show in the coming weeks.

A trip across town to Gaukurinn, the venue of many problems last night; it’s good to see that has been sorted out. Sweden’s Dolores Haze are a gothy collection of girls and one skeleton. The stage is dark, the clothes darker, and the music is darker still; and all the better for it.

Axel Flóvent, while entirely competent, and on occasion charming, plays music that strikes as insipid. There’s little substance here, and as he moves from guitar to piano and back it’s clear there is inherent talent in his performance, the songs though leave a lasting sense of unfulfilled promise. In stark contrast, Lake Street Dive are incredible. Sixties-infused soul music for the 21st century, this is a band that held the Airwaves audience in the palm of their hand from beginning to end. It’s impossible to watch them without a sense of awe.

Reykjavík’s Art Museum is the host of the indie-scene super-group that is Minor Victories. Stuart from Mogwai, Rachel from Slowdive (and the excellent Mojave 3), and Justin from Editors on the same stage. The music, is as you would expect, a delicious mix of all 3 of the aforementioned bands and the performance is intense.

Frankie Cosmos, at Gamla Bíó, is the epitome of the word charming. The songs are cute, sugary and absorbing and the band share knowing glances and teasing smiles as they perform. The band’s success is certainly in part down to the charisma Greta Kline has fronting her band. Finishing my evening, though not the program, was the excellent Prins Póló – named, it seems, after our favourite Polish chocolate wafer. If you don’t smile, dance, and jump, giggle, and shout to this music, you are dead inside. Almost every song in his set drives our audience into a frenzy. A great end to the night.

On Sunday, we leave this bubble to return to real life, at least, when we do, we get to take some of this incredible music with us. Put the headphones on, turn it up loud, and hide.

Iceland Airwaves 2016: Thursday

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3/5 of Tófa

Hands up, dear readers, who amongst you can guess the price of a 7” single in this beautiful land of ice and snow? How about a 12” e.p.? An album? It’s a lot more than you’d expect – the equivalent of 80zł for the single – and all perfectly normal here. The Scotsman in me broke out in cold, icy, sweats, I can tell you that; though as the owner of a small record label about to, I hope, sell a good many 12”s here, that Scotsman began to experience feverish excitement and dreams of great riches.

Thursday in Reykjavík began much in the same way as Wednesday ended, lying ‘neath flowery sheets on top of an air-mattress with, it has to be said, a lot less air within it than I remember from the previous evening. A short walk to buy a snack turned into an afternoon’s work. Walking past HARPA I dropped in to “chance my arm” (as we say in Scotland) and rather cheekily ask for a photo pass, such to get closer to the action for the Radio Kampus instagram account. As a former pro-photographer, I reminisced of my snobbish sneering at others in the photo-pit with point-and-shoot cameras, as I looked forward to being the “guy with the iPhone” this time. What goes around…

Passing one of the small meeting rooms, I noticed the Sync 101 panel about to begin and with some interest, listened to the discussion. It’s incredible to me how many bands don’t understand their own income streams. A potential topic for IndieTalks events next year, I think.

And so to the music. From HARPA, I wandered slowly through the tranquil town to Bíó Paradís for a little of Icelandic blog Straumur’s programme. Canadian band Beliefs were on stage as I arrived. On record, the band have a passing resemblance to My Bloody Valentine, but live this is almost entirely absent and they are the better for it. Jesse Crowe’s voice seems tailor-made to cut through the noise this band makes.

12 tónar is known to many and by many as the best record store in the world. For my part, I love the atmosphere and their Airwaves in-store performances are required for the studious music fan. This afternoon, the store is treated to a performance of Rökkurró singer Hildur’s new solo project and punk noiseniks, Tófa. Hildur’s electronic pop is something, I imagine, that Polish audiences would take to their heart and new single Would You Change? was a high point. Late to the party after performing a “yoga gig” across town (oh to have seen that particular show!), Tófa are set up in minutes but wait for drummer Joi to find a parking spot (he parked legally, we are told). Tófa are a real favourite and seeing them at such close quarters shows just how powerful their sound is. The noise in this small room is pleasantly deafening and the audience streams out, each with a slightly different – but still odd – smile on their face.

East of my Youth at HARPA features Andri and Kjartan of the aforementioned Tófa, so the lads have to run off quick, though not before taking a quick photo (see above). East of my Youth’s single, Mother, is an ear-worm and no mistake. The band announce it and a cheer goes up through the room, such is the anticipation to dance. The duo, Thelma and Herdís, play a sweet, addictive electro-pop with melodies to warm the heart.

The walk from HARPA to Húrra was fraught with danger. The rain had picked up and the uneven roads were flooding. It was only a matter of time. A passing van. A torrent of water. Wet jeans.

The Ills are a Slovakian post-rock band that once counted as one of their number, Filip of Berlin-based (and previously, Warsaw-based) band, Päfgens – who will be releasing a record on too many fireworks in December (hint, hint). The band wear their influences on their sleeve – or more specifically, on their guitars. One guitarist having what looks like stickers of the autographs of my bloody valentine pasted to his Fender Jaguar. The music, as you would expect, delicate at times and ferocious at others – and tremendous. The bass player’s facial antics, though; a 70s lothario wooing a wine-bar single. Next door, there’s trouble. The Polish expeditionary force that is Coals are finding that all is not well on the western front. Gaukurinn’s stage crew are having trouble. Cable-trouble. The band are running late and you can’t help but feel sorry for the duo standing on stage as techs scurry around them. Eventually, they kick off and their downbeat folky songs peppered with warm electronics are certainly worth waiting for.

I dropped in to iðnó on a whim as I didn’t want to walk back in the rain to Conner Youngblood at HARPA, so decided on my option 2, Icelandic singer songwriter, Soffía Björg. Backed by a band including last night’s Pétur Ben, Soffía’s songs are immediate, intense, and soaring. Her debut is coming in 2017 and I’m sure you’ll hear more from her on my show.

My final show of the evening was Congolese performer, Baloji, at NASA. This is the stand-out performance of the festival so far. The band take to the stage, dressed in blue suits, and Baloji appears suited, booted, and desperate to dance, jump, and sing. The music itself is a mix of African music with rap, and soul and occasional house elements. Even as the man falls backwards over a monitor, he still looks unbearably cool. It is, and I can say this as a newly converted and fashioned fan, brilliant!

If you’re over in Iceland this week, it would be remiss of me not to use this opportunity for a little promotion. At 4pm this afternoon at Bíó Paradís, too many fireworks’ own Jón Þór will be performing tracks from his new e.p., out next week. If you come down to the show, stop by and say hallo. We’ll be selling the record afterwards, at a special festival price. Thank goodness.