Thursday’s Airwaves sums up for me just how diverse the music scene is here in Iceland, and just how bloody good it is. Our first stop of the evening was at Harpa for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra playing Draumalandið by Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson. I’m not normally one to take more than a passing interest in classical music, but when I stumbled across Valgeir’s work on recommendation to see him and his Bedroom Community labelmates on the Whale Watching Tour, I couldn’t stop streaming it on repeat – the next thing I knew I’d reached for my credit card and a hard copy was in the post to me.
I’ve seen the Whale Watching Tour twice and narrowly missed a third performance of it along with the Icelandic Symphony in the Icelandic Opera House in Reykjavik, so I didn’t want to miss this one. The weight of a full orchestra behind the powerful and evocative score brought the drama of the Icelandic landscape and climate to life way over and beyond what you’d hear on record or on a smaller scale – and even then the lights and shades and tones and shapes and colours of Valgeir’s home are the most expressive I’ve ever heard. Wonderful.
But, there was another act I really really wanted to see here, and that was Futuregrapher. Futuregrapher is a founding member of Reykjavik’s weirdcore movement and I stumbled across him at last year’s Airwaves playing to a sparsely filled bar. He’s an electronic musician – I’d say DJ but apparently there’s an old connotation that DJs only play other people’s music, pressing a button then putting their feet up with a fag and a coffee till the next tune’s ready. But Futuregrapher is entirely original, and has more than a set of CDJs at his disposal. Normally I don’t particularly differentiate between people who look like they’re fiddling with knobs on mixer boards too easily – if I can dance to what they’re playing (which I probably will do most of the time) then great, and if not I’ll probably just wander off. Such folk aren’t often that visually interesting to watch anyway and one of Jamie’s favourite complaints about photographing them is that they all just look like they’re checking their emails on stage.
But Futuregrapher is a guy you have to watch as well as dance to – he dances, he gesticulates, he grimaces, his eyes pop, and if you’re lucky he’ll jump up on his desk and wave his mixer about – quite simply he breathes the music he’s making just as much as he knows you will. Definitely not an email checker, and definitely one of Jamie’s favourites this festival. And mine too – I was really pleased to see him headlining Faktory with the entire upper floor jumping around just as maniacally as Futuregrapher himself. And I don’t know anywhere else where you can see such breathtaking performances by such hugely different artists and be blown away by both.