KEXP Live at Iceland Airwaves 2018, Day 3: Aurora

Iceland Airwaves
Dusty Henry
all photos by Jim Bennett (view set)

Reykjavik, Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the Aurora Borealis – the enamoring celestial display often referred to as the Northern Lights. It’s also not such a bad place to see Norwegian-based songwriter Aurora. Terrible, terrible puns aside, AURORA’s swooning electronic-pop music is a fitting supplement to the cold and jaw-dropping landscapes of Reykjavik. The 22-year-old musician has been crafting music for most of her life, crafting tunes when she was just six-years-old and writing full songs by the age of nine. Maybe that’s why despite her youth she sounds like such a seasoned professional. Her style veers somewhere between the enthusiastic bliss of CHVRCHES and the mystical brooding of Massive Attack (she even covered “Teardrop” back in 2017).

AURORA’s latest release, Infections of A Different King (Step 1), highlights her propensity for anthemic melodies without losing her art-rock spirit. The way she weaves her experimental notions into something so accessible and glistening is masterful. Her wondrous vocals and exemplary musicianship were on full display as she played the KEX Hostel during our Iceland Airwaves broadcast.



The room was insanely packed as Aurora took the stage. Even the legendary Björk was in attendance, solidifying that, yes, this artist is a big fucking deal (yeah, I freaked out a little bit too). By no surprise, Aurora lived up to the hype. She was magnetic on stage, a true pop star without losing the eccentricity of an artist working outside mainstream parameters. Her voice would rise and fall at insane variables, never missing a note in between her gigantic vocal leaps. Her band backed her up with some truly mind-boggling harmonies. They're the type of band that can translate their set to arenas, so seeing them in an intimate space like this was rare and special. 



"I am in pain," Aurora proclaimed in the middle of the set. Then paused. It turned out she had some sort of wine holder wrapped around her arm that was causing her irritation. She peeled it off and held it up to the crowd in a triumphant release from her torment. It was a bewildering and enchanting moment, which basically sums up Aurora's music and live performance. She mesmerized the crowd with pop hooks and avant-garde arrangements. It was hard to even move around the room as excited fans swarmed the stage. The intersection of experimental art and pop perfection seems to be a theme at Iceland Airwaves and Aurora embodied the ideal intersection of both ideas. 



With her band providing a steady and immaculate foundation, Aurora commanded the stage with otherworldly poise. She'd jump and twist, lost in her own world as if there wasn't an evergrowing mass of people cheering and dancing in front of her. At one point I found a woman in the hall of Kex dancing with a baton, compelled to express herself in movement. That's what Aurora's music feels like to me. An instinct of the spirit to let out these pent-up emotions that we don't always understand. That it always turned out to be catchy pop songs is just another plus. 


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