Words by Wim Van Hooste
The review was originally printed in Reykjavík On Stage (Issue 4)
After being introduced to synths and drum machines by Icelandic icon and producer Hermigervill, Davíð Berndsen developed a groovy pump-up-the-jam, retro sound. His debut album, Lover in the Dark (Borgin 2009), gave him some international exposure, and it was re-released in 2011 by 101berlin in Germany and in Japan on the Donuts Pop label, and in 2012 by Geertruida in the Netherlands. His second release, Planet Earth (2013), is the perfect music to strut around to, dressed to kill in your fishnet gloves, shoulder pads, leopard leggings and slouch socks.
The third album by this ginger-bearded redhead, Alter Ego (OX Records), also mines the 1980s for inspiration for his electropop music. The longplayer was funded by a successful Karolina Fund campaign. The record is driven by the Dutch connection, as all three studied in the Netherlands: Berndsen himself on vocals, guitar and synths; his good friend Hermigervill (Sveinbjörn Thorarensen) on drums, guitar and synths; and Oculus (Friðfinnur Sigurðsson) on bass. Another excellent trio is present on this album: vocalists Elín Ey (solo, Sísý Ey), Sigurlaug Thorarensen (Sillus) and Högni Egilsson (solo, Hjaltalín, ex-GusGus). And Jakob Smári Magnússon – of Tappi Tíkarass, Grafík and SSSól fame – plays the fretless bass.
‘Birds of Prey’ opens this nine-track album, and it could have been the opening score of a movie with the protagonist coming ashore. Vangelis, eat your heart out! The title track takes you on a synth trip that features a wonderful symbiosis of female and male vocals. ‘Karmakaze’ is a new-wavish, retro-futurist throwback where robots and trumpets run crazy. ‘Shaping the Grey’ hypnotises with Högni’s vocal part in the chorus. Then Berndsen takes it slow in the next two songs, ‘Rush to Love’ and ‘We Are Low’, featuring guitar solos and an angelic choir. ‘Wildfire’ puts an eternal flame in your heart. There might be ten million humans in ‘Metropolis’, but only one guitar genius. The final track, ‘The Origin’, sounds like Jean-Michel Jarre as a guitarist. The result is indeed a wordless but wonderful apotheosis.
On Alter Ego, Berndsen creates a dreamy, sometimes dramatic, universe with a perfect mix of machines, trumpets, guitars and vocal chords. One could say that the album is a more mature record reflecting the best of the eighties while simultaneously sounding contemporary or even futuristic.
Berndsen – Alter Ego
1. Birds of Prey
2. Alter Ego
4. Shaping the Grey
5. Rush to Love
6. We Are Low
9. The Origin