Kaffibarinn, Reykjavík, Iceland


Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that when the world’s media go looking for bankrupt but hard partying Icelanders they turn to Kaffibarinn, most likely because it has some Damon Albarn connection and judging by the odd piece of Gorillaz style art on some Reykjavík walls, it’s clear that Albarn has inspired a few kids to make some music.

Geologically Iceland is half American and half European and its pop culture faces the UK and USA. Newsagents are well stocked with British newspapers, but not in the way a Spanish holiday resort might be; broadsheets are more popular and are as likely to be read by the locals as by visitors. Mention you’re from Manchester anywhere else in the world and people say ‘ah, United’. Here they said, ‘ah, Labour Party conference’ and had clearly been following events more closely than the average Brit. Magazines, Vogue or Maxim say, tend to be US editions and shops are a mix of UK retailers, like Next, and American food outlets, like Taco Bell.

Kaffibarinn is one of many small bars that combine the feel of a traditional English pub with live music and would be home here in Chorlton-cum-Hardy or, say, London’s Crouch End. As you might expect there is plenty of electonica in a Röyksopp style, which is great. But watch out as things can turn nasty with sudden hits of what sounds to my untrained ear like progressive rock; the sort of thing you might have thought only just survives in the West Midlands.

I didn’t record much as it was dark so there didn’t seem much point, but listening back I think there’s enough atmosphere here to make this snippet worth sharing. Watching the vid it may look like I’m trying to focus on some figures on a distant stage, but far from it; that’s a shiny musical instrument. There is no stage, the band stand in front of a bar, sharing the space with punters who barge past them to get their beer. From the back it’s hard to tell who’s in the band and who isn’t.

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