Their economy may be in tatters and the spewing volcanic ash that caused so much disruption to air travel may have strained relations with their mainland European neighbors, who were hardest hit, but Iceland's music scene is still in a very healthy state. From the ever-inventive post-rock sound of Sigur Rós to the turntablist hip-hop sounds of former Amoebite and Icelandic born DJ Platurn, and from the home-made, lo-fi analog sounds of longtime Icelandic duo Slowblow to the warmly produced, retro electronic sounds of FM Belfast, Iceland clearly has much to offer musically.
And of all the recent non hip-hop releases I have been listening to lately, FM Belfast, who hail from Reykjavík, Iceland, are among my top faves. Their just released eleven track how to make friends album on Kimi Records (which was originally released in 2008 as an import-only on the small Icelandic indie World Champion Records) captures the fun electro-pop/electronicia trio's throwback style on such tracks as "Frequency" and "VHS" (which longs for the bygone days of VHS tapes and other old technology). But the FM Belfast album track that won me over upon first hearing it was the group's inspired cover of Technotronic's "Pump Up The Jam." For their interpretation of this once ubiquitous 1989 upbeat, bouncy, hip-house-y global hit, they totally rework it by bringing it almost to a screeching halt. They transform the song, renamed "Pump," into a hypnotic, DJ Screw (Chopped and Screwed like) slowed-down version that I think is pure brilliance. Check it out below yourself to see what you think. Meantime, all the way down the page is Technotronic themselves with the Belgian outfit's 1989 video for "Pump Up The Jam," which was a worldwide smash hit, including in the US, where it went to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in late 1989 & early 1990, becoming the first ever house record to go commercial Stateside.
FM Belfast "Pump"
Another recent release from a Euro electro-pop outfit is the highly recommended Baby Ouh! on Kill Rock Stars from the longtime German/French duo Stereo Total, who, since the mid nineties, have been honing their unique underground electropop style, singing in various languages. The new album, which is packed with infectious, upbeat pop songs, is all good, but their cover of "Tour de France" is among the 17 track album's standout cuts.
And while the band may not transform the 1983 Kraftwerk hit to the same extent as FM Belfast's cover of "Pump," it nonetheless injects a whole new life into the classic song by making it more of a happy-go-lucky whistle-along version, plus it adds a bit more percussion, giving it a more organic feel. Here is is recent live concert video clip of Stereo Total performing the song in Koln, Germany earlier this month. And immediately below is the audio track off the new album. Scroll down below that for the Kraftwerk 1983 original version.
Look for both the new Stereo Total and FM Belfast albums at Amoeba Music and while you are there, look for Funki Porcini's On on Ninja Tune, which is another recommended new electronica release that also includes an inspired cover ("Moon River" as "Moog River").
Stereo Total "Tour De France" (2010)
Kraftwerk "Tour De France" (1983)
Technotronic "Pump Up The Jam" (1989)