*This is the first of our “Breaking The Ice” series featuring friend and fellow music nerd, DJ Platurn. In addition to his mixtapes and ongoing DJ work, dude’s a collector who has made efforts to gather and document (funky) records from his country of Iceland. “Breaking The Ice” will feature the music and stories from these experiences. All vinyl rips from ultra-rare, Icelandic funk and boogie records from the ’70s. Peep the post (and others to come!) courtesy of Platurn.
By DJ Platurn
Way back in the year 2006 in my motherland, Iceland, my cousin Sveimhugi and I began compiling what we considered some of the best groove-based music from the annals of our little island’s rich musical history. We had no idea what we would come across. The following is a breakdown of one of the bands and one of their songs (note: all vinyl rips).
I am making a fairly safe assumption that this will be the first that time that all you digger nerds will hear some Icelandic funk. So for now, enjoy!
“Funky Beat” By Eik off Speglun (Steinar Records – 1976)
For starters, let me translate.
“Eik” means Oak, as in wood. “Speglun” means reflection (a spegill is a mirror). Steinar means stones (plural) but is also a man’s name. I’m assuming the guy who put the record out was named Steinar and so he called his label that. Brilliant assumption I know.
One of the highest regarded symphonic bands from Iceland. Surprisingly, there is little information available about them.The membership was consistent with Magnus Finnur Johannsson on flute and vocals, Thorsteinn Magnusson on guitar, mini moog and vocals, Petur Hjaltested on keyboards, Asgeir Oskarsson on drums, Haraldur Thorsteinsson on bass, percussion and vocals, and Ryggvi Julius Hubner on guitar, percussion and vocals.
Their career started in 1971, and lasted till 1978. In that time they only managed to release two albums, 1976’s “Spelgun” and 1977’s “Hrislan Og Straumurinn”. They have a predominantly symphonic style, with elements of rock, blues, jazz, and even a bit of funk. Very much in the school of their ’70’s contemporaries, but infused with the essence of Iceland. Their closest relative would probably be Finland’s Wigwam. Other influences are the usual suspect. Yes, Camel, and some Kansas.
Enough of that. The break is nuts right? That’s some b-boy shit for you right there! I can’t argue that the joint gets a little cheese after the first 8 bars (there’s another one around the 1:05 mark that’s just as nasty) but those drums are sick as hell.
Of the tracks we came across, this one was no exception, and has that same charm that a lot of the old European and Scandinavian bands that attempted a funk approach had. They all have remnants of their respective countries’ sound (usually with similarities to their straight ahead rock and/or “groovy” jazz styles) and they were all just “off” enough so you could tell that it wasn’t American or that it was a bunch of white guys trying to be hip . These players were badass musicians, so regardless of the corny factor, the remaining funk aspects were still pretty dope (mainly the drums, bass, and occasional keyboard work but usually never the vocals – Average White Band of course being the obvious exception on all angles).
Finally, the moog job on this one wasn’t too bad either but you can just imagine the dude Thorsteinn’s (directly translated as “Thor Rock” – how bad ass is that?) face in full rock out mode with his eyes squinting, long hair waving with the full on “I’m feeling myself” vibe on full blast.
That’s all. Good luck finding it. I have no idea how many OG LP’s exist (was never reissued to my knowledge) but it can’t be more than 1000 and most likely around 500 (it came out on an indie which in those days meant a very low amount of pressings for Iceland, even if you were a fairly popular group).
If you know anything else about this group or would care to correct me on any of the facts then please do so (just don’t forget to back up your corrections, Captain “Know-It-All”).
You can contact Platurn at: GET@DJPLATURN.COM. And stay tuned for more from our “Breaking The Ice” series.
*Note “Funky Beat” by Eik is from part 2 of the initial compilation, Breaking The Ice: Funk Fillets From Iceland’s Groovy Side. We compiled 17 songs and this was discovered after the final selections, hence it’s position on volume 2. Maybe someday we’ll actually release them.