For the last decade, one act has towered high above the scene of Icelandic soul, a band so smooth, so funky that it almost defies belief that they arose from the cold and harsh surroundings of this small Nordic island. We talk, of course, of Moses Hightower, one of our favourite acts to appear at this year’s Iceland Airwaves music festival.
Originally formed in 2007 as a live band, the group consists of three gifted musicians: Steingrímur Karl Teague (keyboards/vocals), Andri Ólafsson (bass/vocals) and Magnús Trygvason Eliassen (drums), with Daníel Friðrik Böðvarsson having previously served on guitar.
Pop culture enthusiast might recognise this name, as the band were inspired by The Police Academy student famously played by Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith.
The band shaped their personal brand of succulent soulful pop with off-kilter, yet accessible rhythms, complimented with their angelic vocals to create what has been described as “pure ear chocolate”.
Steingrímur’s high pitched, soothing voice is a cross between Thom Yorke and Curtis Mayfield. Piping timeless Icelandic lyrics over Andri’s baritone, the singing creates a mystical soundscape where every note seems to be perfectly, if perhaps uniquely, placed.
Moses Hightower first caught attention in 2008 with their single Búum til börn (“Let’s make babies”). This would become the title track of their first album, released in 2010, and a de facto manifesto for their sensual approach to music.
The album was nominated at the Icelandic Music Awards, proving to be a huge success with both domestic and international fans of the soul genre.
In the coming years, the members maintained a series of long-distance relationships as they took turns studying abroad. During the same period, the members individually became involved with some of the most renowned bands in Iceland, including Amiina, ADHD, Ojba Rasta, as well as collaborating with the celebrated hip-hop group, The Forgotten Lores.
After recording their first album in a secluded, Icelandic country cottage, it was time for their second release. Önnur Mósebók (“The second book of Moses”) was recorded in Reykjavík, Amsterdam and Berlin, the members being widely dispersed at the time.
This album took the band to new, superfly musical heights. In 2012, it received the Icelandic Music Awards for Songwriter of the Year and Lyricist of the Year, with each single released topping the domestic charts. Once again, the country could not get enough of this new wave of authentically Icelandic funk.
Their third LP, Fjallaloft (“Mountain Air”), was finally released in 2017, receiving two Icelandic Music Awards and the title track reaching the top of the state radio chart.
With plans for future releases, these silky-smooth sovereigns of soul are back with a vengeance, groovier than ever and, once again, ready to take the nation by storm at this year’s Iceland’s Airwaves festival.
Performance Dates & Venues:
Moses Hightower is performing on Wednesday 7th November at 22:30, at Gamla Bíó.
Check out the Ultimate Playlist for Icelandic Music here