Every country throws up an off the wall, out of left field character who works at the cutting edge of musical and lyrical creation. For a long time that mantle was held by Björk in Iceland but she seems to have stabilised now, then it was Mugison, and I hope Inki (Ingibjorg Fridriksdottir) won’t be offended in any way if I say the baton has been passed to her.
Inki turned up twice in NMC last year, the first time with a song, ‘Love of my life, bad guy,’ in which she interviewed ex-inmates of Reykjavik’s Women’s Prison against a backdrop of a variety of music styles including hip-hop to create a ‘story’ of the place, relating imprisonment to entertainment.
Then in ‘Playing with fire’ she experimented with singing for the first time, which seems unbelievable when you hear her voice, which I likened to Alison Moyet backed by Annie Lennox, to a tune that might have been one of Roxy Music’s.
My conclusion was that the first single should be preserved in the National Museum, for posterity, while the second one had ‘chartbuster’ stamped right through it.
So what is next for her? ‘Destructive Interference’ concerns “two people in a relationship whose energies are clashing, leading to a breakdown in communication and harmony.” I suppose that means they’re having a row. Often. Although it appears that some people have read a BDSM relationship into it.
That grabbed your attention didn’t it? Read on…
Inki is at pains to point out that while she writes the music and produces most of it herself, she isn’t the lyricist. That job falls to a local journalist, Anna Marsý, who seems to have a way with words as you might expect.
She picked up on the concept of ‘destructive interference’ a phrase used in music production to describe the interference of two waves that cancel each other out, resulting in loss of energy and sound, and related it to ‘love language’ hence the song’s title and lyrics. It’s riddled with metaphors.
You don’t have to try too hard to get a BDSM connection with lyrics that include the words inverted, manipulated, choked, vibrating, and lines like “Twisting around until one concedes” and,
“I let my levels/get lost in your gaze/Limit my voice/to you forceful embrace
May my undulation/Pick up your sensation/or else we’ll swing our separate ways.”
Phew! as The Sun might say.
My advice though is to read into it what you want. In my experience many Icelandic songs are written that way and quite deliberately. It goes with the mysterious terrain and the folklore.
Reading her explanation of how the melody came about is an education.
Inki says she wrote the song in a friend’s house in north Iceland which “looked like an elf’s home”, between jumping into Icelandic hot springs and ocean swimming. Jeez, they must be tough. This is the North Atlantic man, not Club Med.
She mildly chastises the ‘foreign press’ (I suppose I’m one of those) for banging on about how Icelandic artists are inspired by nature and elves, while admitting that in this instance it is actually true.
But I wouldn’t knock it. It is that nature, the ‘ice and fire’ thing, the baffling stories about roads being built around lava rocks where elves, trolls and other ‘Huldufólk’ live, together with the constant adrenalin shot of never knowing the minute you might be incinerated by a volcanic eruption or a boiling geyser like cellophane in a blowtorch, or fall into a crevice on a glacier or a hole that just opens up on a pathway, that keeps the tourists coming in their droves. And tuning in to Icelandic music.
That, and a nightlife which will knock you out in more ways than one.
And I should know, I used to work for the Tourist Board. Perhaps I still do.
Inki says the melody follows the meaning of the words closely. For example, in the first verse she sings the word “cancelled” but then turns the same melody on its head when singing “inverted.”
Then, “identical” is a one note melody but “waves” is a ‘flow-y’ one.
(And what particularly attracted me is the way she sings the word ‘space’; the slight echo implying its vastness.)
To be honest I was starting to think this is all a little pretentious but it does work out well. Intonation of the lyrics in a manner that is suggestive of their meaning isn’t unique but few artists would have the cajones to try it. There are no such issues where Inki is concerned.
There is melody in the piece but it isn’t the tune that stands out as much as the search for harmony. The song is alternately calm and relaxed, emphasised by vocal harmonies, and manic, as suggested by trap beats that culminate in a hard snare on the final beat, indicative of an argument or disagreement; folk who aren’t ‘vibrating on the same frequency.’
Vocally, her performance is quite different from the sultry one on ‘Playing with fire’. I don’t know how much technical manipulation went into it but she’s ended up sounding much like Norway’s Tuvaband, who I thought had patented this ethereal, ‘detached’ sound.
I suppose the best way I can sum it up is to say simply that it is so Icelandic.
Next on the list for Inki is a track featuring a church organ (June 2023) which will include a separate intro track, featuring only the organ. There are church organs and church organs. I’m kind of hoping it might be the one in the Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik.
I can’t end this without mentioning her website, which is one of the best I’ve seen in the business. The work that must go into its upkeep is mindboggling. The Home page alone will blow your mind.
I’m getting messages every day from Iceland Airwaves about who is appearing at the festival this year and I note that Nanna (Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir) from Of Monsters and Men, also Myrkvi and Soffía, both favourites of this column, are already booked.
But no Inki as yet.
Come on IA. We’re waiting.
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