The Icelandic Stafrænn Hákon will release his 7th album in November / December, „Prammi“. The album contains 13 compositions that were written and produces by Olafur Josephsson, the driving force of Stafrænn Hákon.
Since 2001 Olafur has recorded under the Stafrænn Hákon moniker and released large amount of records under different monikers or projects such as Calder, Per:Segulsvið and Náttfari (who released the wonderful „TÖF“ last year.)
„Prammi“is a balance between a lighter melodic song structure and heavy wall of guitar sounds and drones. On his last record „Sanitas“ Stafrænn was experimenting with more poppier structures throughout the record with a less focus on the heavier aspect.
„Prammi“contains segments of scary guitar drones and also a large amount of more constructed compositions that might even sound like a collaboration between Phil Collins and Sun Ra with Seal at the mixing desk.
The Greek underground label „Sound in Silence“will release the record in a limited of 300 copies.
A personal voyage to Meat Planet
Stafrænn Hákon er tónlistarsjálf Ólafs Josephssonar sem hefur fengist við tónlist síðan seint árið 1999, en segja má að hann hafi verið hluti þeirrar "lo-fi"-hreyfingar sem var áberandi á Íslandi um síðustu aldamót. Ætla mætti að Stafrænn Hákon sé farinn að kunna vel til verka með slíka reynslu á bakinu, og það er einnig raunin.
Prammi er sjöunda breiðskífa Stafræns Hákons og er hún tekin upp í heimahúsi með aðstoð vina og vandamanna – sem á reyndar við um flest af efni listamannsins. Hljóðheimur plötunnar byggir á elektróskotnu "lo-fi" indírokki með smá skammti af ambient og annarri tilraunamennsku. Prammi nær fyrirtaks flugi á þeim lögum þar sem söngur og raddanir fá að njóta sín (Klump, The Son, Hoff). Rækjuháls er að öðrum ólöstuðum besta lag plötunnar og er það eina sem sungið er á íslensku. Textinn, sem fjallar um afbrigðilegar matarvenjur, er bráðfyndinn.
Aðgengilegustu lögin án söngs renna einnig ágætlega niður og þá er rétt að hrósa góðum trommuleik í Hvarfi 12. Upptökurnar eru heimilislegar og blátt áfram, án þess að hægt sé að kvarta yfir nokkrum viðvaningshætti. Að heyra strengjahljóðin í gripaskiptingum er í rauninni plús, ef eitthvað er, og hæfir hljóðheiminum fullkomlega.
Prammi er ekki gallalaus plata en engu að síður góður og gildur fulltrúi íslenskrar indítónlistar. Hönnun umslagsins er einnig mjög indí, einungis plastvasi og blað með ljósmynd. Ef til vill hefði verið heppilegra að leggja aðeins meira í umbúðirnar, en það er kannski svipað og að kvarta yfir að frönskurnar komi með kartöflukryddi – þegar þig langaði í raun bara í salt. Franskar eru samt franskar og svona er lífið bara stundum.
Niðurstaða: Prammi lætur lítið yfir sér en er fín viðbót í flóru íslenskrar indítónlistar.
Time was when a new release from Stafrænn Hákon would have had me rapt and attentive. Such times were a decade ago when Ólafur Josephsson broke out of his native Iceland and release a series of splendid releases on the Resonant label. His more recent work has failed to pique my interest. 2007’s Gummi skidded across [sic]’s review desk, only to be met by a collective ‘Meh’. It wasn’t bad, it’s just that by Josephsson’s own high standards, it wasn’t really doing anything new. Prammi sees the Icelander back on his A game and comes highly recommended.
Any post-rock artist coming from Iceland will always draw comparison with the mighty Sigur Ros . Josephsson probably wears bizarre knitwear, and a half-formed beard, and records his music from his house at the foot of a volcano, right? Of course I’m joking but the Sigur Ros comparisons aren’t entirely invalid. In truth, the Stafrænn Hákon sound draws comparison with a number of the electronica and post-rock greats.
The guitar work on tracks like ‘Hoff’ recalls early Mogwai and Stafrænn Hákon punctuates many of his pieces with fragile vocals in a manner not unlike epic45 . There’s some drone, (‘Dufthani’) some beautiful cello (‘The Son’) and the obligatory glockenspiel pings (everywhere). For the most part, Prammi is light years ahead of the car wreck that was 2010’s Sanitas . For arguably the first time a full album manages to convey the myriad aspects of Stafrænn Hákon work, whilst remaining a cohesive whole. By turns, glacial, uplifting, soothing and fun, Prammi is the best Stafrænn Hákon full length to date and highly recommended as an entry point.
Stafrænn Hákon, from Iceland, is the band formed by Ólafur Josephsson in the late 90's. Other than some drums sampled from Daniel Lovegrove (aka Dialect), and the trombone and cello on track 5, Ólafur plays all of the other instruments on this, his 8th album and first for Sound in Silence. He (along with quite a few other musicians) collaborated with George Mastrokostas on his Absent Without Leave album Faded Photographs in 2010 which was also released on SiS.
It begins with a lovely upbeat melodic instrumental track before surprising me with a song with vocals. Things start to quieten down and by track 4 we are in total drone-land. So basically, you have an album that is hugely varied between lovely dream-pop and soothing ambient-drone. The melodies are tuneful and uplifting, the quieter moments are calm and relaxing. It's very well balanced and eminently listenable. To put this in context for those who don't know his work at all, according to the SiS website, the drone and ambient tracks reflect his early works, while the more rock-orientated, structured songs are more or less where his current style lies.
The album is presented in a dark teal blue recycled card envelope with a photograph of an abstract light-art piece by Ingibjörg Sigurjùnsdóttir. The first edition of 300 sold out pdq so another 200 were made for the second edition.
Stafrænn Hákon’s ‘Prammi’ is divided into two equal parts. The first part is based around relatively sweet ambient pieces. Much of the album is made up of these moments. For the second half though ‘Prammi’ is indie rock wrapped inside a blanket. Each one of these songs conveys a strong sense of warmth. Vocals are generally not necessary. Without saying a word Prammi manages to convey a great deal through affectionate tones and textures. Every time vocals do appear it simply adds another texture more than creates a distraction. These are songs to get wrapped up in as opposed to simply existing as background music. ‘Klump’ is an early triumph in the album. A nice steady beat and guitars it is particularly effective in creating a sense of true comfort. Eventually it bursts out into a big beautiful thing. This is perhaps the most ‘rock’ that ‘Prammi’ gets throughout most of the disc, even indulging in some heavier sound. ‘A Personal Voyage to Meat Planet’ is the calmest track on the whole album. Less about melody, this song is more about a dreamlike state. While there are multiple ambient interludes placed throughout the album, this one is the best one. By the end there is the sweet ‘Lusher’ and the twee ‘Rækjuháls’ the latter of which references earlier elements in the album. One of the key benefits of the album altogether is the strong sense of unity. Sonically it is aa consistent album. Whether Stafrænn Hákon is focusing on an ambient or more active song the result is a coherent whole of an album.
The first label to approach this year since my intentions of increasing the posts on Audio Gourmet for 2013 is Sound In Silence. They kindly send over their two latest releases for review, by Stafrænn Hákon and J.R Alexander. So first up, I present my thoughts about the latest Stafrænn Hákon album 'Prammi', which has already been reissued due to popular demand. Stafrænn Hákon is the pseudonym for Icelandic artist Olafur Josephsson, the work of whom I have been following for a few years now. For those new to his sound, you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd fall into a similar category as the likes of Olafur Arnalds and Johann Johannsson, since Iceland is renowned for producing quality modern classical music. However, Josephsson is perhaps most known for his post-rock sound, active since the late nineties.
Before I began to listen, I took a glance at the tracklist and noticed something familiar - the inclusion of a piece named 'Hvarf 12' and having listened, it seems to be a 2012 adaptation of a track included on Stafrænn Hákon's 'Í Ástandi Rjúpunnar' album.
Josephsson's more recent material has been increasingly veering to a purer rock sound, with the additions of upbeat drums and guitar patterns and vocals. Whereas his earlier works were perhaps more subdued instrumental post-rock. Where 'Prammi' is particularly effective is that it draws on this artist's years of experience and through all of the different sounds in his albums. It is evenly spaced using the careful placing of these different styles through each track.
Prammi opens out with what you might describe as the classic Stafrænn Hákon sound before moving towards his more recent work in the second track 'Klump', which hints at the work of Boduf Songs, which is never a bad thing! On from this, we here the re-interpretation of Hvarf which then moves onto something new to broaden the album's palette...a piece of pure droning texture.
Whilst 'A Personal Voyage To Meat Planet' is oddly titled, it does offer respite from the pleasant, largely upbeat post-rock sound that preceded. Not only this, its minimalism offers a pause in which anticipation for the rest of the album heightens. I gather that fans of pop and rock genres would skip the drone pieces but in doing this, we rid the album of its most effective part.
When I used to DJ, I would often play a couple of tracks that were largely percussion, stripped back and minimal. I would then follow this with something melodic and with a lot of atmosphere, with the impact heightened by the few minutes of minimalism that went before it.
Sure enough, the melodic post-rock returns and with impact. This is then followed by another short interlude of textured ambience aptly titled 'Passage'. I can't help thinking here, that perhaps it would be more effective to swap this with the following track 'Hoff', which would space the tracks and their differing sounds apart a little. That said, this point is of such little bearing on the overall effect of Prammi and who am I to question Josephsson's ideas. Prammi continues along with the effective formula of post-rock, both instrumental and vocal interspersed with short drones to great effect.
By the time we hit tenth track 'Lusher', a more laid-back and vibe sets in, followed by the fractured music box tones of 'Before'. For me, the album is at its most beautiful in its final quarter which is rounded off with 'Wait', the album's darkest piece. Again, its placing is apt - it makes sense to include this as the last track; a final reflective moment as this remarkable album draws to a close.
Physical copies are still available at the time of writing, hand-made and hand-numbered by this excellent emerging label. Their current roster of artists is more than enough to make their Bandcamp page a regular haunt amongst fans of quality experimental music.
I've been a long-term fan so I feel qualified to issue this bold statement: Stafrænn Hákon's 'Prammi' is perhaps his most accomplished body of work to date and rewards a listener that gives it the time to play out in full. The way that Olafur Josephsson positions the tracks whether upbeat, laid-back, instrumental, vocal or glacial is what sets everything off here. He has shown great restrain in creating this album, which will shine whatever the weather. Highly recommended
A very respectable name at the time of his first records ("Eignast Jeppa" and "Í Ástandi Rjúpunnar", respectively published in 2001 and 2002), which coincided with a period of global attention due to the large amount of music coming from Iceland, Ólafur Josephsson alias Stafrænn Hákon had somewhat lost track of the last few years, thanks to some ill-fated electronic attempts and an authorial vein never really fully developed.
Now, having reached the seventh album, for Josephsson it seems the time has come to retrace his footsteps to restart from the origins of that expressive form poised between dreamy ambient and emotional post-rock that had aroused so much acclaim at the beginning of the last decade.
With its enchanted atmospheres, acoustic romanticism and occasional rhythmic progressions, "Prammi" shows the Icelandic artist again in the comfortable guise of creator of soundscapes worthy of his land, now through vaporous environmental suggestions, now through moderate crescendo that do not culminate never in explosive climaxes, but open up in airy electro-acoustic scores close to those of The Album Leaf or through cadenced segmentations of evident post-rock heritage.
In the course of the work (thirteen pieces for a little less than an hour in duration) there are also scores of a prevalently sinuous and dreamy but sometimes dense and uniform ambience, nor some residual attempts by Josephsson to give concrete shape to a song to his compositions, with infinite colored tiles like the album cover.
And, despite the not always convincing success and the feeling that "Prammi" could have brought today's date like ten years ago, the return of Stafrænn Hákon on well-known but certainly fascinating roads, at least, is to be welcomed positively. for the incurable dreamers of Icelandic landscapes and for those who don't care about the actuality or not of an ethereal formula poised between ambient and post-rock, centered on harmonies that at times are substantiated in real songs.