Iceland Airwaves 2012: Day Two – Exitmusic, Pétur Ben, Bendagram, and Dýrðin

Photo cred: Jack Collier

Bendagram at Faktory Upstairs

Walking down the street, I was suddenly attracted to the sound I heard cascading from a small bar on Laugavegur. Enter Bendagram, a duo hailing from Finland who suddenly showed me a new side to pop music – and maybe the future of the genre.

Their show was best summed up by the man sitting next to me: “This is some next level s***.”

To be more articulate, Bendagram push the edges of what we call “pop.” While their beats were, for the most part, steady, grounded, and familiar, their use of various instruments I hadn’t ever seen or heard before gave them something new. I’m thankful for this – the music, in this case, truly spoke for itself. I was able to appreciate a band not only because I knew about their hype, or their image, or any other preconceptions. The music chose me and I learned from it.

The real amazement came from multiinstrumentalist Lauri Solin’s ethereal vocals. Almost like epic, Gergorian chants that were somehow captured in ancient Persia, they soared over the throbbing sounds of the bass and unique drum patterns beneath it. Pekka Tynkkynen, the band’s other half, sang differently. His voice was sweeter and more intimate, his stare fixed on some unseen lover he was singing about or to.

Bendagram filled the tiny space of the venue with their lush, otherworldly sounds, a lucky attraction and certainly a band to look out (or listen randomly on the street) for.

Dýrðin at Bar 11

Viscous, energetic, and a bit ecstatic, the sounds of Dýrðin richocheted violently across Reykjavik’s main street and aesthetic gift, Laugavegur. Two harmonizing female voices pulled me in immediately, and I entered a bar full of tangible energy.

Dýrðin formed in 1994 and have since then released a stream of silly but undeniably punk music. The Reykjavik native harmonized flawlessly, exciting a smiling audience. The drums were absolutely killer – fast, precise, and dripping in punk realness. Obviously veteran musicians and punks to the core, they were another lucky and unexpected find.

Hear Dýrðin for yourself.

Pétur Ben at Harpa Kaldalón

Pétur Ben has been playing music in Reykjavík since he was a teen, and it shows. Harpa Kaldalón was packed with eager fans, and the understanding between the five people backing him was harmonious. They effortlessly but forcefully pummeled through a set of alternative rock music, fronted by Ben on guitar and vocals. His piercing voice rose and fell with the dynamic music, but failed to conjure any real emotion besides an appreciation for the band’s precision.

Noticeably gifted and entertaining to look at, Ben’s performance fell just a little flat. It’s difficult to pick out the flaws here, but maybe that’s because there weren’t any overriding ones. However, while it was entertaining, leaving the venue meant forgetting almost all about the songs that were just played.

 

Exitmusic at Harpa Norðurljós (pictured above)

I didn’t notice I was crying until a quieter point in the song, but as Aleksa Palladino’s voice trickled over “The Hours,” the band simply transcended the walls of Harpa Norðurljós.

Describing the sounds of Exitmusic, as we discussed in my interview with them earlier in the day, is incredibly and deliciously difficult. Multilayered, colossal, and eternally desperate, their songs break free of the boundaries of genre-labeling.

Exitmusic’s undeniable sonic trademark is Palladino’s wail. It’s an existential howl, powerful but exceptionally vulnerable. She’s grounded and human on stage, but her vocal chords are something else all together – wild, pleading, ethereal.

Devon Church, her other half both musically and martially, deftly glides over his instruments, controlling sometimes the drum machine, sometimes the guitar, and sometimes the synths. Palladino, too, is an expert multinstrumentalist, playing keys and guitar on stage, but ultimately dominating the set with her voice.

Exitmusic is a band that deserves every inch of their hype, and maybe more. Despite Palladino’s popular role as an actress on the show “Boardwalk Empire,” there is a tangible translucence to her soul on stage, something increasingly rare in today’s music.

It is the true gift of music to awaken something within us, to hit a chord not only on a played instrument but on the instrument that is the heart. Exitmusic hit that chord with each whisper, every build-up, and especially on all of their dizzying, intense peaks.

See the breathtaking video for “Passage” below:

 

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