What Life Sounds Like When It Echoing at The Corner of The Spheres

An inspiring 20 minutes “Do It Yourself” documentary film of Iceland Airwaves ‘12 music festival and the musician who participate in it. Directed by Agus Makkie a freelance film director from Indonesia; produced by himself in collaboration with his team, Icelandic and European musician. All the scenes, interview, live music was filmed on the peaceful place on earth, Reykjavik in November ’12.


Airwaves has a solid reputation of bringing the best Icelandic and international acts on the cusp of greatness and public awareness, and this year the fest is back to do their thing for five very cold and dark days and nights. In their eloquent words:
It’s 4 a.m. You’ve been to five cool clubs, seen ten great bands, made fifteen new friends and fallen in love twenty times. You’re tired. You’re wired. You’re ready to find a bed. You’re ready to find the after-party. You can’t believe you’re here. You’re already making plans to come back next year. And guess what? It’s still Day One.
I’m in Iceland to cover Airwaves (flew out of Seattle to get here, no thanks to hurricane Sandy) for your vicarious enjoyment, so be sure to “like” Nordic Spotlight on Facebook to both keep you connected to the action and to make you insanely jealous.

Reykjavík is a small city— with slightly more than 119,000 people. The downtown area where the festival is held isn’t more than a few blocks long in either direction. This means that it’s inevitable that fans and industry people and musicians alike will cross paths all week-long.

From enjoying the Icelandic food, running from venue to venue to catch numerous amazing musical sets, sitting down and talking with artists or even just exploring Iceland’s beautiful country side, Iceland had much for us to discover.

The Iceland Airwaves Music Festival is an event that brings artists from around the world to grace the stages of venues in Reykjavík, Iceland. Here are some artists from the lineup this year that we included in our on-air preview (with links to our interviews and reviews from the fest): Apparat Organ Quartet, FM Belfast, Ólafur Arnalds


I’m a huge fan of electronic music. I’m constantly on the lookout for electronic music that’s both progressive and organic, especially if it amalgamate unconventional sampling and tasty beats. After perusing the enormous lineup for Iceland Airwaves, I stumbled upon a band who could satiate my appetite and delivered something worthwhile. The band is called Samaris, an electronic trio composed of three young students who include a clarinet player (Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir), a vocalist (Jófríður Ákadóttir), and a computer programmer (Þórður Kári Steinþórsson). Together they create songs that call to mind experimental electronic, post-dubstep, and downtempo (e.g. Zola Jesus, Mount Kimbie, Tricky). Below you’ll find a music video for their song “Góða tungl’” off their Hljóma Þú EP.

Agent Fresco

After months of excitedly exploring the lineup for Iceland Airwaves 2012, I finally found a band I can really sink my teeth into. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of acts I’m ready to cover at Airwaves is an overwhelming list of hip-hop, electronica and rock, but there’s something about the seamless display of sonic contrast that Reykjavík’s Agent Fresco rocks. At one moment you’re being blissfully lulled by vocalist Arnór Dan Arnarson’s floating vocals and swaying instrumental melodies. Soon after, however, the serenity is morphed into a fleeting wall of crunching guitars and stuttering drum rhythms that are hard-hitting enough they sound like they could cause a shift in the tectonic plates beneath Iceland’s surface.

FM Belfast

Less a band and more of a musical community, FM Belfast was formed in 2005 by Lóa and Árni Rúnar Hlöòversson in Reykjavík, Iceland. Playing their first Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in 2006, the band is now supplemented by about three to eight additional members, depending on their availability – most of the band is involved in several other musical endeavors at any given time. Since their inception, FM Belfast has released two albums: How to Make Friends in 2008 and Don’t Want to Sleep in 2011.
FM Belfast utilizes catchy synth hooks and driving, bombastic drums to create an upbeat and exciting musical experience. Far from the floating, ethereal style of iconic Icelandic acts like Sigur Rós, this music will make you stamp your feet and throw your hands in the air. The dreamy sound effects color generally fast-paced tracks reminiscent of bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Passion Pit, while the combination of male and female vocals keeps the music fresh and evocative.

Apparat Organ Quartet

Four electrifying keyboardists and one rhythmic drummer from the energetic five-piece Reykjavík-based band, Apparat Organ Quartet. Apparat Organ Quartet are visionaries within their own genre, using everything from short-circuited Casio keyboards, malfunctioning hammonds, and custom homemade organs to produce what they call “Machine Rock and Roll.” Their lyrics are distorted by vocoders producing Daft Punk like vocals and providing a video-game ambience to their digital rock sound. Despite their inaudible lyrics, you don’t have to understand what they’re saying in order to feel the pulsating energy apparat Organ Quartet orchestrates.
Band member Jóhann Jóhannsson formed the group in September of 1999. Apparat Organ Quartet first began exploring with experimental improvisations that they performed as a series of concerts, laying down the foundations for their future sound through minimalist works. Slowly their music evolved, as the group took pride and passion into physically creating every noise and glitch composed within their songs. No computers or sequencers are used to create their digital symphonies.
The band finally released their self-titled album in 2002, revving up the engines for an unstoppable career. In 2010, they jumped back into the music scene with their second album Polyfonia, which created significant buzz amongst Icelandic critics. Polyfonia was the masterpiece and the final product of what the band had worked so hard to achieve. It features beautiful organ solos, riveting synthesized explosions, and distortion. After signing with the Crunchy Frog label, their music is beginning to spread worldwide.
Apparat Organ Quartet has traveled across the world, rocking their futuristic sound from New York City’s “ Central Park Summer Stage” to London’s ICA and the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Apparat Organ Quartet will likely blow the stage away at the 2012 Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and I can’t wait to be a part of the madness. Check out one of my favorite songs off their album Polyfonia, “1,2,3, Forever.”


When Iceland comes to mind, possibly the last thing someone thinks of is an annual music festival. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of going to Iceland this year to cover the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and am very excited to see the band Nóra. A mix of guitars, keys, samples, and drums, this band from Iceland puts it all together and forms something marvelous. With light, upbeat melodies and a mix of sibling harmonies their music was made to ease the soul.

Ólafur Arnalds

I am incredibly excited to see is Ólafur Arnalds. Ólafur combines classical music with electronic beats to create music that stands out to music lovers around the world. He is a 25-year-old multi-instrumentalist that preforms live on the piano, but is accompanied by strings, which creates a beautiful melodic harmony that can send goose bumps down your spine and bring a tear to your eye. I am extremely excited about Iceland Airwaves, and Ólafur is one artist festival I plan to catch.
There, classical composer and pianist, Ólafur Arnalds performed an alluring set. Accompanied by a talented violinist and cellist, the trio performed his pieces, “Gleypa Okkur” and “Near Light,” and had the audience in a trance. Arnalds’ compositions are absolutely moving. His last piece he performed solo on a beautiful grand Fazioli piano, and it was written for someone he missed dearly; his grandmother. As the last notes were fading out, you could faintly hear the violinist echo the melody backstage. To me, that particular piece was a memento in music, a symbol of missing someone immensely. My heart broke and I could feel my eyes starting to tear… never have I been so moved.


As the growing adrenaline and suspense kicks in, I have been hyping myself up by jamming out to native Icelandic bands. One of the many great Icelandic acts that are performing at Iceland Airwaves is Nolo, a two man band consisting of Nonnji Lorange and Ivör Björnsson. This band combines sounds of a guitar, a beat machine, and two old fun machines they found at a secondhand shop.
This isn’t the band’s first time performing at Iceland Airwaves, in fact they rocked Airwaves last year. The thing that attracts me to them is their lo-fi, basement sound and in fact the two usually record in Ivor’s basement with one microphone. The underproduced sound is actually quite organic. Their instrumentation creates a splashy texture with each instrument complementing the other.


“I feel like we’re all in a big elevator,” singer Agnes Andradóttir joked as Sykur got set to play at Sirkús Port. The tiny bar was jam-packed; people were standing on couches, tables, anything they could find to get a better view of the Icelandic electro four-piece, who filled the few spaces between people with hard-hitting sound. Andradóttir’s fantastic, growling voice carried cleanly over the group’s dirty beats and punching synths. The band ripped through a half hour set to an appreciative crowd who called for more after every track.

Retro Stefson

By far the funkiest band at Airwaves, Retro Stefson owned the stage – all eight of them. Slap-happy bass, obese synths, and a singer with more charisma than a politician all made Retro Stefson a balls-to-the-walls experience that could scarcely be rivaled. Calling for the audience to throw their shirts on stage, the band also insisted that “You have to be sexy at Iceland Airwaves!” They blasted through funkadelic numbers in quick succession, always moving, frontman Unnstein Stefánsson dancing with such intensity that he seemed to be cast from pure energy. After the band was satisfied they had enough shirts on stage, they called for the audience to back, back, back up, widening the gap between the audience and the stage in order to make room for one of the band members to jump down and start breakdancing. Naturally, everyone went berserk. The band made time for each instrumentalist to take a featured solo; each displayed virtuosic chops and showed he or she could work just as well in a prominent role as in a secondary. With final calls of “Harpa, you gotta be sexy tonight!” the band left the stage to thunderous applause.


One of Iceland Airwaves’ original acts, GusGus has been playing the festival since its inception in an airplane hangar back in 1999. These guys (and girl) have been playing huge festivals like this since before most of the current bands on the bill have existed, and GusGus showed why they are still major players in the Icelandic music scene. Members of the audience were screaming for the group as soon as their openers finished, and the minute the first teeth-rattling bass note hit, it was absolute chaos on the floor. Each member of the band wore a genuine smile as the venue shook with bass and dancing; singer Daníel Haraldsson owned the stage, dancing on monitors and playing to the crowd, who obviously adored him. GusGus proved that they have not lost a step.



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