Princesses that puke in a glittery way – Æla

in Live by

Another dreary day at work. I’m getting a text message: ‘Wanna join me for Æla’s gig?‘ so I’m jumping out early from work. Trying my best in shaking a leg, I can already hear their post-punk sound on my way, carried on Laugavegur. Joyously I’m noticing I’m not the only one who hurries up so I could finally sink in the twilight of the most famous venue in downtown – Kaffibarinn. The door opens and the sound is sucking me in. ‘You’re lucky, they had to wait for the bassist, it’s already the third song‘ – was said in my ear. I feel like someone is puking on me with a brocade. Oh, that’s Snow White and her three naughty girlfriends are playing a show. They are called Æla which translates from Icelandic literally as puke. And no, they are not girls, the show of those guys doesn’t fully exist without dressing up.

By a fluke on Sunday, November 8th, was my last and unplanned Airwaves’ show so I bid the festival farewell with the ammount of 10 wonderful gigs tha I had seen since quality is much more important than quantity. Tell me, how is it possible to stand there in Kaffibarinn calmly when those four guys in dresses make such a noise and they are crowded on a small patch of floor in the corner of the club. Not everyone could puke on your face, but believe me, you would let Æla do it. They have been gaining experience for over 10 last years and have regularly played at Iceland Airwaves but I saw them for the first time barely a few months ago, around the time of releasing their second self-released album entitled Vettlingatök. Better late than never, right? My jaw dropped when I saw the show made by the Snow White, a spectacle full of explosions and a pretty heavy bass sound. Enticed by Æla, I arrived for the second time at the show – then at Boston. Halli Valli (Hallbjörn V. Rúnarsson) a.k.a. the Snow White with a brocade rainbow in his beard undergoes metmoprhosis from a wedding guest who is wearing a dress suit to a guitar dancer who is jumping on all available chairs and tables. Of course he wouldn´t skip a dance on my table. Ok, they got me that time. Ævar Pétursson rages with a second guitar while waving his rabbit ears. I´m still not sure whether he has a tail or not (because he should…). On drums is hyperactive Hafþór Skúlason in a little black dress. And this fierce and bad-ass bass is played by Sveinn Helgi Halldórsson.

In the middle of this madness, I’m somewhere on the other side of the mirror in a remote area (ÆlaLand?) that is infinitely variable like the rhythm of Æla´s songs. Rough and short compositions with screeched vocals, dynamic guitars, creaks, crunches and unbridled energy of the band. Fun. I don´t even know if it´s better fun on stage or in front of it. The rhythm section pulls me in absurdly and plays with chaos of guitars and vocals. And this sound of the bass. Damn, I do not get used to feel a shudder because of the bass sound. So good that Æla finally recorded and released the second album. Hello, 9 years of difference is definitely enough and the debut album entitled Sýnið tillitsemi, ég er frávik was released in 2006. You have heard Vettlingatök live yet, right?! Yes? Then listen to it once again.

Madness reached its apogee in the final because of Love the honey that is one of Æla’s hits. This song appears immediately in your brain and will haunt you for at least the next few days. Besides, how to not let yourself get carried away with the energy of Ég verð að hætta að drekka á sunnudögum (I must stop drinking on Sundays), Rólegur that was released as a single and is accompanied by a video? What about another single entitled Your head is my ground in which entire room sings along? Æla paralyzes with a wild joy of playing, a twinkle in their eyes, a verve in their hands. They dig into one’s memory with the sound and the stage appearance. What do you want more? You have an intensity, a convincing power and an aggresive dirt in the same breath.

I caught myself having an uncontrolled contraction in the shape of smile, hanging on the railing of stairs in Kaffibarinn. Æla´s energy – a renewable power. Just puke on me. Puke on me with tons of brocade and nothing would erase that smile from my face.

You can buy the album as 180 gram vinyl on Æla´s bandcamp site while waiting for KEXP to upload a video of full performance of the band at KEX Hostel this year at Airwaves.

Stína has followed her passion to Icelandic music as a music journalist since 2010. She joined then a writing team of Muzyka Islandzka - a Polish website dedicated to Icelandic music. Spreading her wings, Stína started her adventure with Icelandic language and moved to Reykjavík where she studied the language at the university. She also takes an active part in life of the local music scene. Since 2014 Stína had run a music blog that was transformed in 2017 into a printed magazine on Icelandic music.