Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice. Famous for its lively geysers and volcanos, cutesy Puffins and curious cuisine, Blue Lagoons and Bjork. But for past two decades the country has also been host to what has become one of the most significant showcase festivals in the world; from its beginnings in an air hangar to its takeover of the whole city, Iceland Airwaves has become a must for any aspiring artist.
Though there's only an hour of sunlight in the day, there are many more to be spent discovering the best new music, and that's just what the biz from both sides of the Atlantic does each autumn as they migrate to this small island for four days.
As Iceland Airwaves festival celebrated its 20th birthday at the weekend, here are five of our favourite finds.
Cover image by Mummi Lu
While not strictly the freshest find given the snowballing hype around Irish-born rapper Rejjie Snow (Alexander Anyaegbunam) over the past year, the excitement around the 25-year-old is still so close to the verge of eruption it was apt that he should perform amongst the volcanic surroundings. Joined only by his DJ, his performance at Listasafn Reykjavíkur on Saturday evening was a minimal affair but elegantly spotlighted his low-pitched vocal flare above jazz and G-Funk tinged cuts, as well as a more recent poppier influence on the likes of 'Charlie Brown' from 2018's Dear Annie.
Where to start with a band like Grísalappalísa? A colourful and comedic cacophony of art-rock and garage-punk, their live show at Gaukurinn on Friday night did not disappoint. With skanking, saxophones and group vocals it felt like being 16 at a local ska show with all its youthful energy again, only just about without the awkward embarrassment of adolescent attached to it.
Photo by Sigurður Ástgeirsson
Danish pop-trio Off-Bloom brought the party to Silfursalir on Thursday with guitar-specked electronic pop bangers from start to finish. Deconstructed piano ballad 'Not Sorry' and the oriental-influenced 'Falcon Eye' were particular highlights, with neon-glow sticks and confetti-guns blowing in full force as Mette Mortensen urged their crowd to "Shake it like you want it all".
Formed from and inspired by all-female rap nights organised in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavíkurdætur is a forward thinking and seemingly ever-growing rap group. From their performance at Reykjavík Art Museum on the festival's opening, it's clear they go as hard live as it is for a non-Icelander to pronounce their name. Meaning 'Daughters of Reykjavík', their performance was as charged with fun as their tracks are with progressive attitudes.
Photo by Florian Trykowski
Tearing up Friday evening at Silfursalir was the boogie and sultry disco of Los Angeles Matthew Urango, aka Cola Boyy. Urango's from Oxnard, the same Californian city that bread Anderson. Paak and Madlib, which should go some way to explain the soulful and funky influences that make up his sound. Tracks such as 'Penny Girl' and 'Have You Seen Her' were irresistibly groovy, giving this bleak but beautiful city the warm sheen it needed.
Photo by Florian Trykowski