Yesterday I have been to the closing party of a nordic film & music festival in Berlin called Northzone Festival. It was in a very long time the least organised event I have been to. It were things like the organiser showed up 30 min after the entry should have started (= waiting outside in the cold for half an hour), the actual film about the Icelandic music scene “Backyard” was “not available” at that moment (I assume they forgot the DVD somewhere) and therefore they showed a documentary about the band we would see after the film. No seating whatsoever - kind of a must for me when you want show a 70 min long film and it’s cold outside. I just don’t enjoy sitting on a club floor as much as it might have seemed (neither would I enjoy standing while watching a 70 min movie). While the audience waited for the event to start they showed a documentary (without sound/music was playing) about the Titanic - I am so tired of the Titanic and the documentaries and the movie. So, it was quite possible the worst start.
However, I went there mainly to see Árstíðir and not a movie. I stumbled over them when I searched for something to do this weekend and found their music quite interesting from the first listen on and, to be honest, I didn’t give them that many listen beforehand simply because I didn’t want to go there with expectations or anything. I wanted to surprise me. That was a bit disturbed when I was kind of forced to see a documentary about them. It’s like getting all the information about a band before you even have heard one song - the opposite of what I usually do. And I wish I wouldn’t have watched the documentary, so I could discover them myself, instead of being told what’s special about them before. Anyway.
Árstíðir were amazing live. They have blown my mind with their melodies and vocals. They are a 6-piece band: piano, 2 guitars, baritone guitar (love), violin (love²) and cello (love³). And all of them have wonderful voices and that’s the mind blowing thing. They don’t really have a main singer, they all sing - they build amazing vocal harmonies and when they sang a cappella it was just wonderful, like a choir. I haven’t seen something like that in quite some time. The music is a mix of Rock, Pop, Classic and - that is something I just read and have no idea of - Icelandic Folk music. Well, you can hear to folkloristic, traditional touch whether you know Icelandic Folk music or not.
They sing in English and Icelandic and even though I didn’t understand a word*, their songs just took me away. Well, being German I am kind of used to this situation because most of time I don’t understand to words right away. It’s how the sound of their voices, harmonies, instruments and everything is working together that make them amazing and fascinating. The music is very calming and intimate but at the same time so huge and deep as well… and so different from what I have listened to lately.
In the first part of the concert they played more songs from their first self-titled album while the second part was mostly songs from second album “Svefns og vöku skil” (2011). They had a second violin player for that part on stage as the second album has more strings on it. I loved “Shades” live - it’s one of the more energetic and less quieter songs. They played two encores for the enthusiastic audience. Árstíðir is definitely a band that has to be seen live to be able to fully understand the magic of their sound.
The only almost good photo I took:
I have moaned a lot at the beginning of this post but this band compensate it more than just a little bit. I can’t wait to see them again in September (hopefully).
Thank you for reading,
*But nevertheless I wonder what they sing about. I don’t want them to sing in English, I just would like to have a translation/short summery. I love it when artists sing in their own language. Good music should be able to connect with the listener no matter in which language it is.