Rekjavik Rock

"Suitcase Man" by Hjaltalín

In the past two decades Iceland has proven a fertile breeding ground for artists that have pushed the boundaries of typical pop formulas. Channeling the glacial beauty and volcanic passion of their surroundings, musicians such as Björk, Sigur Ros and Múm have demonstrated that string quartets, Inuit choirs and experimental electronics can and should have their place on chart lists worldwide. One of the most recent acts to rock the Atlantic Island is Rejkjavik-based septet Hjaltalín. Following the success of their internationally acclaimed debut, Sleepdrunk Seasons, Hjaltalín's sophomore effort, Terminal, was named the best pop record of the year at the annual Iceland music awards last week. An ambitious offering, the album takes the band’s previously spare chamber-pop sound—all fluttering woodwind and delicate, sunny guitar licks—to epic new heights, marshalling the force of a medium-sized orchestra (bassoon included) to embellish the group’s terse rhythmic core. “It’s a fuller sound, it’s more grand,” says singer Högni Egilsson. Today’s track, the staccato, driving lead single, "Suitcase Man," was a particularly Herculean effort, recorded both with and without the orchestra and later spliced together in the studio for the symphonic album version. “It’s elaborate,” says Egilsson, “and that’s the way we thought about every detail on the album. It was hard, but it was an achievement.” Terminal is released May 24 via Cargo.


Photo by Hörður Sveinsson
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