Feminist Tracks is part of Bluestockings’s Music section. It spotlights music made by feminists, women, and marginalized communities from all genres and countries and in all aspects of music-making. To suggest Feminist Tracks, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though Samaris released its self-titled debut album in 2013, the latest album release, Silkidrangar, of the young Icelandic trio marks its first foray into full-album production. Comprised of sung poet Jófríður Ákadóttir, producer Þórður Kári Steinﬂórsson, and clarinetist Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir, Samaris’s clarinet-suffused downtempo beats serve as the euphonic background for Jófríður’s poetry. Written in the eddic styles of late 19th-century Icelandic poesy, to the non-Icelandic listener, Silkidrangur may conjure the image of a rave in an abandoned church somewhere far away from Reykjavík, like the one that Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles produced their album II. Or perhaps some other mythos, of glacial passages or lapping waterfalls under the viridescent skylight of the aurora, that recurs within nonnatives imaginaries of Iceland. It seems Samaris is aware of the endless risk of this inventive exoticism that comes with global perceptions of Iceland, as it has with Björk and sigur rós before them, but it does not inhibit their acceptance of their foreignness.
Yet to Icelandic listeners, particularly those knowledgeable about Icelandic poetry, any supposed simplicity of its lyrics masks its dedicated revival of national poetic histories, their historical importance in the maintenance of communities, and its ability to combine the styles of lore with the pressures of the Icelandic people to conform to global modernity with and after the World Wars. Perhaps the greatest strength of the trio is its return to the eddic and its unwillingness to render its lyrics in English, though it still utilizes imported production technologies. Their vision is not that of Kath’s in the bombastic “Year of Silence,” which sampled and distorted sigur rós’s Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur, but rather its reverse: minimalist, expansive, recursive as waves that lushly lap the shores. Like the works of Nobel Prize-winner Halldór Laxness, their discography embodies the impulse of Icelandic artists postwar modernity to seek a return to the past yet to situate this nostalgic romanticism within the realities of the present.
Grimes’s self-designation of her music as “future pastoral” fits seamlessly into the larger project of Samaris, which combines mythology, folklore, history and Iceland’s bucolic landscapes with the electronic beats that have been found in Reykjavík’s downtown clubs that have been part and parcel to youth culture since the 60’s post-disco. Their popularity within Iceland attests to their success in such an untimely juxtaposition, and the rave reviews abroad indicate a thriving exoticism that’s been the cause, in part, of the heavy expansion of Iceland’s tourism industry. They offer a novel rendition of Icelandic cultural history that has yet to be matched since Laxness himself.
Check out the video for their lead single, “Ég Vildi Fegin Verða.”
Stream their full album via One Little Indian Jukebox on Youtube below.