Winter has fallen suddenly on Copenhagen. It’s only in the last week that the temperature dropped those crucial few degrees to make it feel properly cold, that the wind picked up enough to make the cold really bite, that everyone has been chased indoors.
So people clustering themselves in Ideal Bar to see Icelandic trio Samaris seems wholly appropriate on different levels. People are sitting on the floor in a ring, leaving walking space between themselves and the stage. The band, with their downtempo music and gentle movements, inspire similarly subdued reactions from those who are standing. There is no threat of anyone getting stepped on — so much the better for those who have taken off their shoes.
Even though Samaris build their songs around loops and echos like an aural reflecting pool, there is a decided ambient quality to their music. The sounds produced from the table of gadgets manipulated by a floppy-haired boy are mostly subdued, lulling, and even when the beats kick in it’s all very relaxing. The conflicting pattern in “Lifsins Ólgusjór” unfortunately demonstrates how delicate the balance is, how easy it is to throw off the groove, but things fall back into step.
The one other instrument, a clarinet — also looped and delayed — provides an organic counterpoint to the electronics, and to synthesizers in general. It’s really an under-utilized instrument in alternative music. When the electronics angle towards noise, the clarinet is lost, and that applies to the vocals as well. But these are clearly strategic decisions, and singer Jófrídur’s voice is mostly up to the challenge.
What is it about Iceland that produces singers with voices that are atmospheric in their own right? Jófrídur could be the linch pin that pulls the electronics and the clarinet together, but then it all feels like it’s been perfectly slotted together. The sense of what’s been scaled down from what could be — kimonos instead of costumes, fake yoga poses instead of choreography, a cosy bar instead of a theatre — is still tailored specifically to this experience. That if we’re going to sequester ourselves from dark and cold, minimal, chilled out electronica is exactly what should soundtrack the escape. It’s going to be a long winter, and this is a good way to ease into it.