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Ókei Bæ!

from Wednesday, August15th of the year2007.

11.jpg Yesterday was a really good day; we got up early, and ran to record a harpsichord down at the Sheremetyevo-tastic music school annex colloquially known as Tónó. The whole time I was reminded of a class I xin_581203051053767101816.jpgtook my freshman year at Columbia in which the professor must have said the words “Tono-Bungay” at least seventeen times per minute. I called my dad at some point and then he started saying it and then I started saying it and after a while nobody could stop saying it. Tono Bungay Árni Heimir, the harpsichordist, is a sort of Icelandic music renaissance man: a scholar of early music, expert on this Icelandic composer Jón Leifs (who seems to be like some combination of Sibelius and Christopher Rouse) performer, arni.jpgand soon-to-be program director of the Icelandic Symphony, with any luck shepherding them smoothly to their sexy new digs. I only have this outrageous glamor shot of Árni Heimir and I’m sure he will never forgive me for posting it but such is the way in which the ice-wafer crumbleth.

Speaking of matters culinary, I have as of this morning completed my Comprehensive & Exhaustive Rækjusalat Taste Test (2007). Here’s the deal, y’all. Iceland has a bunch of competing domestic brands, which is great for a country this small. Most of these brands deal with specifically Icelandic food, like Skýr 100_0008.gif(a yogurt-like drink but more sour), or flatbread, but also seafood/meat salads, which are basically fancier variations on our egg salad. There is a delicious shrimp salad (“Rækjusalat”) with plump little shrimpsim suspended in mayonnaise, egg white & yolk chunks, and assorted vegetables. Some of the brands of salad feature some pretty terrifying details, including one with these stringy asparagus as well as kernels of corn. The Most Delicious brand for both Rækjusalat is Eðasalöt, whose website is here. Their variation of hangikjötsalat (which is cubes of smoked mutton in mayo) is also delicious.

So, last night Valgeir’s first video from his album premiered. The song is called Evolution of Waters, and features Bonnie “Prince” Billy singing. This genius art student called Una Lorenzen made a video for it as well as a piece of mine called It Goes Without Saying. Both videos were presented at Liborius, the fancy clothes store our friend Jói owns. Here is Valgeir’s video and here is mine. Everybody we know turned up, it was madness! Here is an annotated list:

img_0480.jpg img_0484.jpg thobbi.jpg
img_0312.jpg sruli.jpg
clockwise from top left: Hildur, Oddný, Þobbi
Sruli, Jói

On the left is Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir, a cellist and composer. Last year, it was estimated that she had performed on 85% of all music released in Iceland. I wouldn’t doubt it. She lives in Berlin. Center is Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir, a philosopher. She lived for a few years in Hungary and the brand of her jacket is Dracula. On the right is Þobbi, who used to be Valgeir’s intern but now appears to have made it his goal to be the best dressed girl at the party, always, and to be involved in every random multimedia project in the greater Reykjavík area. Next, Sruli, an ingenious and bite-sized designer whose shoes are so beautiful ““ be sure to check them out on his site before James McAvoy or something gets a pair and then nobody can afford it. Finally, Jói, our host, whose store is one of these small-town wonders that manages to be simultaneously cozy, stylish, and personal. Plus, you can’t argue with his style.

The drive home along Sæbraut was, as always, gorgeous and revelatory; the changing light against the sea and the mountains is completely mesmerizing. The fact that the city is pressed right up against this mountain makes you constantly aware of nature glaring down on you; imagine if the Palisades cliffs were directly across from midtown Manhattan on both sides and you’ll get a sense of what I mean. Every interview with an img_0502.jpgIcelandic musician includes the annoying question about the relationship between the music and nature and so on, and I think the answer is pretty obvious: there’s a Great Bloody Mountain looming over the capital, so when you look down a side street, it’s there, like a giant, immutable trombone note. In Paris it’s the Eiffel tower, in New York it’s these random glimpses of giant concrete stalagmites, in London it’s that facacta ferris wheel, I guess (?) and here, it’s a big mountain.

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