Review: Samaris w/ support from Jackson Dyer – De Barra’s Folk Club Clonakilty, 23.07.2014
Words: Gary Hannon
Photos: Richie Tyndall
Nordic nocturnes, mythology, poetry, feelings, emotions — these are not clichéd boozy electronic anthems! Samaris are a young Icelandic trio. Jófríður Ákadóttir is on vocals played through effects, which produce a lower harmony to everything she sings. Þórður Kári Steinþórsson is on electronics — a laptop plus plenty of midi controllers – he is a talented producer. Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir is on clarinet, which she played with effects pedals.
All the lyrics to their songs come from Icelandic poetry, mainly from the nineteenth century. They have said that they should not translate these poems, and so they sing them in Icelandic. Samaris’ sound is dreamy and atmospheric and they create “something that possibly doesn’t exist”. They want you to listen to the sounds of the lyrics and feel them, so that they become an instrument.
There were some gremlins present at the soundcheck: there was an electronic meltdown, and the visual show could not go ahead. When they came onstage and played that first note, they were relieved that it came out! Wearing long, drab clothes, the two women, one imagined, would have had visuals beamed onto them as they performed.
Both girls performed barefooted. So that’s poetry, barefooted. Jófríður is the most feminine creature you are ever likely to encounter! When not playing, Áslaug cradled her clarinet like it was a little kitten. Metallica at Glastonbury this was not!
The second song started off with trip hop beats, developing skittering rhythms, which panned around the darkened venue, finally breaking down to a house beat at the end. At no stage during the set did Þórður stay still — he kept twiddling knobs, melding sounds and vocals. He was constantly improvising and it was great to see and hear the aural manipulation. Too often an electronic gig is just a guy on a laptop poking his finger on a mouse.
The fourth song ‘Brennur Stjarna’ translates as “Burning Star”. Though this is their current single, it had been improved upon by Þórður and the live version had a huge, Laurent Garnier-like bassline. It’s a stomper! They played a few other songs from their current album Silkidrangar such as ‘Nótt’ and ‘Ég Vildi Fegin Verða’.
However, the set highlight had to be ‘Góða Tungl’, a song about the passage of the moon, taken from their eponymously titled debut album. This is a perfect Samaris single and they stuck close to the original.
Góða Tungl official video link:
There is a classical feel to their music, a full orchestral sound – i.e. it doesn’t sound like it is made up of individual instruments. The clarinet sounded at times like it was playing chords. In addition, there is an Icelandic tradition of speaking the lyrics of songs, a practice to which Jófríður sometimes adhered.
The seated, candlelit gig was intimate and you could totally immerse yourself in the music. However, ideally these are a band to experience after the climax of the night, at say 2am outdoors at Body and Soul. My one complaint was with the brevity of the set — at under an hour, they could have played another few songs, as there was an appetite for more from the full de Barra’s crowd.
Support on the night came from Australian “soulful singer/songwriter”, Jackson Dyer. He is new enough on the scene here, so I feel I’m allowed to make comparisons. He sounds like a mix between Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay, Finlay Quay and Craig David. He was “discovered” in Berlin and came over to Leap in West Cork. Here, in the legendary venue that is Connolly’s (which is currently getting a makeover and could be the newest venue in West Cork), he recorded his new EP White Threads.
He is of the new generation of singer/songwriters who effortlessly loop their guitar riffs, build vocal harmonies and play their beats on drum machines. He also knows when to end a song (a mature quality for his years). He requested audience participation for the third song, a cover of Cold War Kids’ ‘Hang Me up to Dry’, saying, “I’ll give you a sly wink when I want you to join in”. He had the entire female contingent eating out of his hand. Jackson Dyer has the looks, the stage presence, and the voice to become very successful. Keep an eye out for him.