Who: Viet Cong
When: May 17
Despite the seemingly short 7-song length of Viet Cong‘s self-titled debut, the album is a tour de force in every way. You’d have a hard time pigeon-holing this Calgary band. You can hear echoes of musicians ranging from the washed out post-punk of New Order to the slicing guitar riffs of Bloc Party. Hell, sometimes singer, Matt Flegel, even reminds me of David Byrne. Essentially, their sound is all over the place. At the outset, Viet Cong attacks with a pounding Chinese-style drum passage, their voices droning above in a monotonous unison. They use just enough distortion and dissonance to make things interesting, enthralling listeners without distracting or losing them along the way. The album culminates in an 11-minute beast of a song entitled ‘Death,’ that–title aside–can only tell of amazing things to come from this band.
When: May 25
I get the feeling that there’s something magical in Icelandic water. I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard a bad musician or band come out of that country. In this way, Soléy and Óbó are par for the course. As both hail from the aforementioned mystical land and both are on the German label Morr Music, naturally they’ve joined forces for a double-bill of Icelandic loveliness at the Volksbühne.
Óbó is the side project of Ólafur Björn Ólafsson, the keyboardist from Icelandic sweethearts Sigur Rós. Similar to Sigur Rós, you can hear that the majestic countryside of their home has served as a major influence on the sweeping, atmospheric sound of his debut album, Innhverfi. However, Óbó sets himself apart, namely because of the whispering timbre of his voice, which lends a folk sentiment to the music. Add to the mix piano, pump organ, xylophone, and strings, and you get music that is at once intimate, and also subtly epic.
Sóley, the main act of the evening, has slowly become Iceland’s answer to Agnes Obel, albeit much more subdued and eerie. While she’s also a member of the Icelandic folk band Seabear, Sóley Stefánsdóttir’s solo project is quite a departure from the music of her band. Her breathy, lilting soprano voice paired with the imposing sound of the likes of the organ make for an incredibly haunting listen. Her sombre, dreamy lyrics could have easily been taken out of the darkest of Brothers Grimm fairytales. Yet, either due to or in spite of this bleakness, there is an overarching beauty in all of the songs on Soléy’s second album, Ask the Deep.