As with the majority of what music discovery entails, it requires you taking a punt and being open to becoming enlightened by new sounds and experiences. This turned into our plan of action for the last day covering The Great Escape. Raj and I thumbed through the festival app to check whether anybody leapt out that wasn’t already marked down on our schedule.
It is true to say, most of our Great Escape experience had been ruled by taking in Scandinavian acts and not so surprisingly they’d come up with the goods. Taking a lead from this thread of good outcome, we pegged our hopes that the same would ring true with Icelandic, electronic-folk artist Asgeir, who was hastily added to our schedule.
We felt quietly confident in our expectations of what Asgeir’s showcase might be like. Afterall, we’d absorbed all the key facts. Asgeir’s 2012 album was the fastest selling debut in Icelandic history and had made him a phenomenon in his native homeland. There were plenty of people out in force to catch his set at The Arch (we got there well before showtime and the room was packed tight). Our adrenaline began pumping in overdrive as we watched 5 synths being brought out onto the stage, sensing that our last show at The Great Escape would suitably send us off to electric dreamland afterwards.
Even so there was a sense of the unknown, which was also building and making us even more curious as to what was about to happen. A chant broke out from the crowd, which rapidly multiplied and rippled its way around the room. It sounded quite as though an Icelandic shepherd was herding up a moose. Maybe this is what happens at every Asgeir show?… almost afterwards as the hollering had died down, Asgeir and his band entered the stage.
I was expecting a firework entrance after that, with a joyously upbeat song to set us on our way, but all was rather serene, poetic and tinged in melancholy. Which became the precedent for what was to follow for the next 45 minutes. I knew as much, that the music was going to be sonically ambient and dreamily organic. I thought the synths might get more of a feature bringing melody to the fore, but didn’t translate this way as I was hoping for. Everyone around me appeared to be in the zone. I was struggling a little to embrace it all. However, the clarity and emotiveness in Asgeir’s vocal penetrated with such beautiful vulnerability, it was hard not to appreciate how masterfully it carried the introspective nature of tracks such as, “Underneath It”, “Head In The Snow”, “I Know You Know”, “King and Cross” and “Torrent” which are captured in our live footage below.
To be fair, for the majority of the time, my ears were ringing with reverb coming from the speaker system which I was reasonably close to. By and large I do think, this marred my enjoyment of what was taking place on the stage. This seems to be lost in our live footage and I’ll be honest, upon playback I am hearing the Asgeir set with newly appreciative ears, as an Icelandic version of Aquilo with sparser synths.