The days are short here in Reykjavik. This time of year, you have a short window of time to take in the daylight and all that comes with it. The sun reflecting off the ice-capped mountains. The endless blue skies hovering over the town while a frigid breeze bites at your face. By the time Icelandic duo Hugar took the stage at Kex Hostel, the sun was just starting to go down. The light from the windows was beginning to fade and darkness took its hold over the room. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as the duo crafted post-rock compositions that felt like the coming of dawn. It also didn't hurt that they brought along a lighting rig that felt like it invoked the Northern Lights.
If you’re not familiar Hugar, surely you’ll know some of the acts that we’ve worked with. Their resume is a veritable “who’s who” of influential Icelandic musicians, performing and recording with the likes of Sigur Rós, Björk, the late Johann Johannson, and Ólafur Arnalds – whom we just heard perform earlier today. It’s much more than just their references that makes Hugar so exceptional. Though they have only one full-length record to their name – their 2014 self-titled sweeping, orchestral opus. The album was the process of long gestation. Bandmates Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson played together in bands for years before finally deciding to collaborate together in 2012, when they began work on the songs that would eventually become Hugar. As you’ll see and hear in their performance, Þórisson and Jónsson play a variety of instruments, allowing them to execute their vision clearly and giving them insight into the ins and outs of composing for a small outfit of musicians.
All of this was on full display during their performance. The word "cinematic" gets thrown around a lot when describing post-rock and ambient music so, uh, I won't say that. But what I will say is that their music soundtracked the moment with astounding poise and precision. If you weren't looking, it was easy to assume there were more than two people on stage. It's a testament to their prowess but also the magic that they inhabit in their craft. Switching between keys, pianos, and even trombone, the duo was effortless in their execution. The lights would slowly pulse and fade behind them, an array of colors mirroring the subtle transitions in their songs. Much like the Aurora Borealis, Hugar's music feels like a lovely mystery that you feel lucky to come across. The set could've continued on endlessly, spreading out throughout the room and swaddling the room as the darkness outside continues to overcome the sky.
Our second day at KEX Hostel starts off blissfully with the renowned Icelandic composer.
Our second performance of the day here at the KEX Hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland was yet another thrilling debut of a collaboration between two renowned Icelandic composers.
KEXP kicks off our Iceland Airwaves broadcast with a debut of new music from former GusGus member Stephan Stephensen and Icelandic composer Óttar Sæmundsen.