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ARCHIVES | 2005 | MATAMORE STAGE | STAFRAENN HAKON


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Biography

Stafrænn Hákon is the alter-ego outfit of Olafur Josephsson, a musical artist from Reykjavík, Iceland. After being a guitarist in his previous band (until early 1999), Stafrænn was craving to create up his own musical sound world, based on distorted guitars and various instruments.

Things started slowly at first, mostly writing unsweeping ambient guitarworks onto his 4-track recorder. Whilst exploring his own sound and the world of drum-machines and loops, Stafrænn Hákon began to write more "proper-songs" on his 4-track.

 

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We are in 2001 and Stafrænn is playing songs known to be on his debut EP 'eignast jeppa', self-released on his own Vogor Recording outfit.

Later in the summer Stafrænn made his live debut, sharing the stage with Reykjavík's electro favorites Ampop, which he occasionally plays guitar with. In late 2001, Stafrænn had already written his second work entitled 'í ástandi rjúpunnar', which was much darker and whose sound was far more ambient than its predecessor.

 

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In March 2002, he opened up a show for GY!BE, which might be the peak of his career so far. Again Stafrænn was ready with another album in the spring of 2002. 'skvettir edik á ref' was released in July 2002, with homemade cover art and sleeve.

After he moved to Edinburgh at the end of the summer, he started sending demos to various labels. The records were soon picked up by Resonant Recording (UK) and Secret Eye (US).

In 2004, no less than 6 releases were put out. After having played a few sparse shows around Europe, he is now planning a short tour, without forgetting to make a stop at the Rhâââ Lovely!

 

Discography

-) 2001 : 'eignast jeppa' on Vogor Records (released on Secret Eye in 2003).

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-) 2002 : 'í ástandi rjúpunnar' on Vogor Records (released on Resonant in 2004).

Brainwashed's point of view :
If you're Icelandic, you're probably already aware of Olafur Josephsson's project, as his career got a large boost by opening for godspeed you black emperor! last month in Reykjavik. His "band" name translates as Digital Hakon (Hakon the Good was the king of Norway in the 10th century and has a long legacy of being name checked in numerous songs) and the music is probably the most amazingly produced CD-Rs I have ever received.
A heaping serving of patience is needed as the disc opens with a gentle 8 1/2 minute piece of soft drones and sparse guitar. Over the course of nearly an hour, the music crescendos slowly, slowly, slowly. Various other instruments are added, numerous differently treated guitar sounds, un-dominating beats and rhythms, bass, long-stretched keyboard synth string sounds, pianos, and bell-like chiming things (xylophones, wind chimes or keyboard sounds, it's hard to tell what's real these days).
Unfortunately, as is the seeming downfall of everything I'm writing about this week, there are a number of derivative elements. Sampled tirades of Jesus freaks has almost been done to death by godspeed, swirling guitar melodies echo those from the Aerial M record and chord progressions I'm hearing are strikingly similar to those overused by Mogwai and their imitators. These aren't bad things to emulate by a long shot. If anything, more music needs to be this patient and delicate.
Josephsson, however, seems like a very intuitive man, tactfully issuing this disc only as a CD-R, giving out a number of songs for free on his website, www.islandia.is/hauskupa. In essence, he's made a silent statement that he's here, he's busy, but things are not quite ready just yet for a mega-super world dominating release. Pay attention to him, however, as things will happen. You can quote me on that. In the meantime, lend him an ear and I'm sure he won't let you down.

Jon Whitney - site.

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-) 2002 : 'Skvettir edik á ref' on Vogor Records (released on Resonant in 2003).

The Wire's point of view :
Largely based on simple guitar melodies, Hakon (aka Olafur Josephsson) slowly unfolds his glacial take on ambient music over ten tracks that gently drift from acoustic guitar bolstered by waves of background sound to delicate drone pieces. Josephsson works the simplicity of his compositions to his advantage, grounding his developing soundscapes in basic folk andeven blues-based forms. The way his soothing reverberating guitar moves through waves of undulating sound is occasionally reminiscent of Jason Pierce at his most mellowed out. Elsewhere the faint siren call of his guitar echoes the ethereal music of fellow Icelanders Sigur Ros, but on a more intimate level.

Tom Rige - site.

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-) 2003 : 'Prjónar Húmmus' on Vogor Records.

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-) 2004 : Split 7" with Emery Reel on Awkward Silence.

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-) 2004 : Tour EP with Dialect on Resonant.

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-) 2004 : 'Ventill/Poki' on Resonant.

The Wire's point of view :
Last year's Hakon album, 'Skvettir Edik a Ref', was largely self-produced and played. Beautifully sedate, it combined cool ambient arrangements with warm guitar melodies. 'Ventill/Poki' is fleshed out with guest musicians on most tracks, and a bolder if more conventional sound. Fortunately Hakon's compositions are still masterful studies in layered arrangements, and while he now incorporates a full rhythm section, the frequently mesmerising, seamlessy interwoven combination of electronica and ambient guitar remains in place. Like fellow Icelanders Sigur Ros, Hakon does have a weakness for the epic, occasionally over-egging things with sumptuous layers of instrumentation. Elsewhere the solid drumming sometimes anchors the music too much. But when he gets the balance right, which is most of the time, this proves a worthy successor to his previous work.

Tom Ridge - site.

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-) 2004 : 'Glussi Christmas 2004' (7" vinyl) on Resonant.

Boomkat's point of view :
Resonant continues its splendid obsession with all things icelandic, on this cheeky, chunky little christmas seven, achingly a week after the holidays. Staffron manfully tackles the Band Aid tune on 'Hva, pekkja pau ekki jolin?', no Dizzee on this one of course, but lends it a yearning, strummed acoustronic air, which fans of the man, the label and for example Erlend Oye or His Kings Of Convenience should love. 'Sidustu jol' deals with the auld george michael andrew ridgely abomination and actually brings out the song and not the schlock. Buy early for next December, or pay now and leave those faerie lights up just a few weeks more. Now, who ate all those Quality Street? Strictly limited copies only.

site.

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-) 2004 : 'Glussajól EP' self-released.

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Audio

A few tracks are to be downloaded here.

 

Web

-) Official site.
-) Resonant.