Our countdown to Iceland Airwaves continues and today we will put the spotlight on Teitur Magnússon, a singer-guitarist who has in recent years garnered attention for his quirky but catchy music, which could be described as Icelandic freak-folk.
The soundscape is hard to place; reminiscent of seventies prog-rock with world-music influences, on top of regular guitars and drums are instruments such as the cuica, taisho koto and sitar, all joined with articulate Icelandic lyrics. On his two albums, Teitur carves his distinctive musical niche in this digital age.
Frequent Airwaves guests may first have seen Teitur fronting the Reggae big band Ojba Rasta in the early 2010s, where he was singer/songwriter with his longtime collaborator, the multi-talented Arnljótur Sigurðsson – who plays innumerable instruments on Teitur’s two solo albums. They have both pursued solo careers in later years while Ojba Rasta has lain dormant.
In 2014 Teitur was 27 years old and recorded his first solo work, the enigmatic “Tuttugu og sjö“ (Twenty-seven), in an abrupt, spontaneous surge of creativity. The album cover depicts the artist framed in late hippy-era fashion on a bright green background, his face emerging from leaves in the sunlight with his Viking hair-style and a knowing look.
The outlandish but memorable lyrics and easy-going music made it to the top of the Icelandic pop charts and reached critical acclaim. “Tuttugu og sjö” was named the album of the year by many critics and nominated for the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize, along with one other Icelander; Björk, who was nominated for Vulnicura.
While “Tuttugu og sjö” seemingly came about in a rapid stream of improvisation, his second album, “Orna”, was around three years in the making. Though appearing more layered and premeditated, it retains the lazy, charming sincerity and naivety that Teitur presented on his debut album, adding to the zany psychedelia and existential ponderings.
Teitur’s lyrics are, like on the earlier album, partially written in collaboration with his kinsman Skarphéðinn Bergþóruson, and some borrowed from Icelandic classics. The lyrics of the title track, “Orna” are, for example, taken from the poems of the beloved New Romantic writer Davíð Stefánsson.
The music is still hard to place at first listening; the opening track, “Bara þú”, has a lazy bossa nova beat while the second, “Hverra manna”, is a brassy power anthem, followed by the soothing (but lyrically unsettling) traditional Icelandic lullaby “Hringaná”.
Teitur’s live shows are a cross between a country dance and a love cult ceremony, so Icelanders will uncharacteristically smile for no reason and even give prolonged hugs during his performance, do not be alarmed.
Performance Dates & Venues
Teitur is performing on Wednesday 7th November at 23:20, at Bryggjan Brugghús.
He also has an off-venue gig on November 9th on the KEXP program at Kex Hostel at 16:30.