KEXP Live at Iceland Airwaves 2017, Day 2: Par-Ðar

Iceland Airwaves
Katy McCourt-Basham
Photos by Jim Bennett

Next on the broadcast live from Kex Hostel at Iceland Airwaves music festival is Icelandic psych outfit Par-Ðar. Their name serving as a description for the band's sound, "PAR" is an acronym for Psychedelic Ambient Rock, and "Ðar" is the band’s made-up word for a state of enlightenment or being. Their sound is a mix of Neo-psychedelia and Psychedelic rock with just a hint of pop. The brainchild of Kristjón Hjaltested and Viktor Atli Gunnarsson, Par-Ðar formed in Njarðvík in 2013, but didn’t play live until two years later when they competed at Músíktilraunir, Iceland’s battle of the bands, where they placed second and earned various individual awards. They’ve been in no rush to release their music, taking their time fine-tuning their first full-length Upplifun (Icelandic for “Experience”), expected sometime next year though it's been in the works since 2013. This year, they self-released four super-limited 7” singles—each a run of only 30 records—accompanied by a set of music videos

The concept for Upplifun came about because Kristjón and Viktor really connected with the concept of psychedelic introspection. Kristjón describes the album as describing "Someone starting from a young age. You go in thinking you know everything because you’re young and stupid, and then something happens that makes you look inward and starts to change how you perceive things.” the album is about what happens after that life-changing introspection, and how you begin to develop as a person. Over the course of the album illustrates the ups and downs of these experiences, either portrayed as one cycle of a psychedelic trip or the normal process of growing up, both with the goal of attaining something higher. The record ends with the realization that the goal itself is a misconception, that there isn’t necessarily that one final destination, goal or prize, but who you become is a result of all the small things that develop along the way and your own conflict with your inner self.

Par-Ðar started their set with "I Don't Know Who I Am," a drum-heavy track with spacey, distorted vocals and blistering guitar riffs. The crowd at Kex may not have been large, but they more than made up for it with enthusiasm. It's easy to see the comparison with a psychedelic trip, as songs like "Af Stað"—with rapid shifts in tempo, and a quick about-face between melodic and distorted guitars—showing the ups, the downs, the sensical, the nonsensical that might see or feel throughout such an experience. The addition of a clarinetist to a psych band added a unique warmth to their sound, like a bit of sun peeking through the clouds on this dreary winter afternoon. In post-rock fashion, many of these songs simmer slowly to a cacophonous, distorted climax, hair flying as Par-Ðar slowly built their a wall of noise. It's still early days for these psych rockers, and I'm confident that we can expect great things from them in the future.

Up next on the broadcast is Russian post-punk band Glintshake. Join us live on air or check out our live video stream at 6pm local time/11am PST/2pm EST

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