My favourite Icelandic band were in town tonight, and I was in XOYO in London to see them. I last saw Amiina at Latitude in the summer where some members of the group performed a live musical accompaniament to the animated films of Lotte Reiniger.
Prior to that, I’d seen them in the Queen Elizabeth Hall performing with Shlomo and Valgeir Sigurdsson in Music Through Unconventional Means.
This was the first time that I’d seen Amiina perform a more regular set. WIth a new album out this week – Puzzle (strangely, not currently to be found on Amazon) – they performed a set that was largely made up of songs from that album. As I’ve not had a chance to listen to it yet, it was pretty much all new to me.
Amiina were originally four women, but this time supplemented by two men. While Hildur, Edda, Maria and Sólrún circulate around the stage, each playing different instruments or combinations of instruments for each song, Magnus plays the drums and Kippi stands behind a MacBook Pro cuing up various electronic sequences to supplement violins, and accordian, keyboards, bells, a saw and much more.
This was never going to be the loudest concert in the world, but that meant that what I believe is a pretty new venue really wasn’t right for the band. At first I thought it was just an especially noisy barstaff who were to blame as they slammed tills shut and noisily restocked fridges with bottles of beer during very quiet points. But then as the heat intensified we were told that the band had elected to leave the aircon switched off because it was so loud. At precisely that moment the fans revved up and a sound akin to a Harrier jumpjet filled the room. The band battled on against it for another song or too before some pleading led to the fans being switched off (various elements in the room either wanted the fans on or off – depending on how much they liked the music versus how faint they felt in the heat).
And it wasn’t just the barstaff and a noisy aircon that had to be fought against. XOYO is actually two venues in one, and another – much louder – band was playing in the other venue. And their sound was leaking through to our area.
All in all, a pretty dismal experience. Amiina seemed to have only been supplied with a single 500mm bottle of water between all six of them, and they were losing as many pounds as we were by the end of it.
Still, I’ll forgive much for the music which is exceptional. But next time they need to play in a different venue. A friend told me that they were wonderful in the Bush Hall, and although it’s very formal, the Queen Elizabeth Hall is a properly airconditioned building too. I’m not in a rush to go back to XOYO to see a band like Amiina in a rush.
Once the gig was over and we were leaving, everyone was appreciating the cool of the air outside – including the band, who seemed to be reacquainting themselves with a significant section of London’s Icelandic community.