After nigh on twelve months of living in the Iceage, I think it might be safe to inflate the hyperbole now: sometime between the Danish release of ‘New Brigade’ (Escho) in January of 2011, and the album’s UK release (Abeano), in September of the same year, I scored a vinyl copy of the US pressing (What’s Your Rupture) and made acquaintance with a passionate friend with whom my exponential relationship is still expanding at the rate of the average universe.
Around this time I wrote the following words for a now deceased website: “Denmark has proved revelatory of late: first the long winter Saturday nights spent engrossed in The Killing, followed by long spring weekday nights spent engrossed in DVD replays of The Killing, followed by tepid summer evenings spent buried in Danish crime novels . . . and now, Iceage. Impossibly young, improbably good, and impeccably packaged, Iceage transcend the hype to deliver what is a truly stunning debut long player. From their hometown of Copenhagen, Iceage have set out to conquer the known world, and, from where I’m sitting, right here, right now, they’re doing a marvellous job! ‘New Brigade’ delivers twelve songs destined to echo long into the future. The evolutionary history of punk junk is jumbled here, embedded within these very grooves. I can feel Wire, I can hear a young Robert Smith in the vocals, I can smell Joy Division, I am setting the controls for the heart of 1980! Are you going to tag along for the ride?”
Some of you did. Some of you didn’t. The mainstream got itself in a bit of a tiz, with the NME alleging ‘Nazi’ salutes at the group’s gigs. The underground got itself all confused, with the odd blog citing apparent ‘Nazi’ imagery. In an almost surreal piece of anti-climaxing, Iceage themselves eventually denied all accusations of anti-Semitic tendencies when challenged by Kerrang! What with their drummer being Jewish, and the band themselves worshiping avowed fellow anti-Nazi Danes, Sexdrome (Who’s ‘Count Me In’ they covered on ‘New Brigade’). So far, so convoluted.
In the interim, I burnt copies of the album onto disc for anyone with the vaguest interest, eventually travelling up North to bear witness to Iceage at the Islington Mill in Salford (02/10/11). I took with me a compadre who had been hurling genuinely sincere accusations of ‘greatness’ at ‘New Brigade’ for the handful of months I’d been forcing him to listen to it, and we both harboured no small amount of expectation as we awaited their arrival onstage on that drizzle-flecked autumnal evening. Iceage took to the stage in a hail of feedback, commencing proceedings with ‘White Rune’. The ensuing cacophony was tinnitus inducing, the PA’s sound engineer an obvious novice. Iceage duly thrashed and failed their way through a dozen indistinguishable dirges, fighting the feedback like a drunk with an empty bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 fights a revolving door. I can honestly say that, following ‘White Rune’, the only moment I recognised what was actually being played with anything approaching clarity was during closer, ‘You’re Blessed’ (Iceage’s technically most recognizable moment). Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, the band’s enigmatic singer, flung his microphone to the floor, marching off through the crowd, feedback emanating from every available speaker. My compadre glared at me. I knew he wasn’t impressed. He hated it. I loved it. My singularly most cathartic live experience since the Jesus & Mary Chain (when Bobby still played drums). Our return journey South was one continuous stream of negativity on the part of my compadre with regard to the onstage merits of Iceage (and Flats, who he’d recently hated live too, after initially loving their records). As I said, I loved it.
Meanwhile, back at the plot, several months on into 2012, ‘New Brigade’ has resolutely expanded its resonance. It’s uniqueness within an arguably entrenched genre pool sets it aside as the heir apparent to Joy Division’s still-surprisingly-relevant-to-this-day ‘Unknown Pleasures’. In the interim, Iceage have continued to gig sporadically around the globe, gaining resounding acclaim in the process.
Iceage’s front man, Elias, has also been busy with a couple of side-projects, namely Pagan Youth (EP reviewed in the ‘Halfway House’ post elsewhere on this site), and War (subsequently renamed Var), a minimalist electronic duo with Loke Rahbek (who co-runs the Danish label, Posh Isolation, sings for the band Sexdrome, records with Skurv and Damien Dubrovnik, and also performs under the solo moniker of LR). War/Var have thus far released the ‘At War For Youth’ seven on Sacred Bones (NYC), and a split with Lust For Youth on Avant Records (Italy), with a long player threatened for 2013. War/Var’s signature sound is a million miles away from the angst of Iceage, the roar of Pagan Youth, or, indeed, the industrial tinged musings of the currently sidelined Marching Church. Sacred Bones themselves describe War/Var as “somewhere between Daily Void and Trust”.
‘At War For Youth’ was recorded in the summer of 2011, in a basement, on four-track cassette, employing analog synth, pedals, drums, guitar, and dual vocal attack from Elias and Loke. It could conceivably be argued that War/Var have forged a unique new genre in the process, uniting lo-fi-post-apocalyptic-punk-dirge with nascent Chicago house music. This collaboration has in turn led me to the work of Cccandy (with a little help from The Shend), White Hex, and the aforementioned Lust For Youth (LFY), whose excellent sophomore LP ‘Growing Seeds’ has been rotating heavily on my turntable continually since point of discovery.
Follow the links below for evidence of this greatness of which I speak. We will shortly be bringing you word from inside Avant Records HQ on every aspect of this fascinating link betwixt The Danish New Way Of Fuck You and what absolutely no one is calling the New Wave Of Cold Wave. Don’t touch that dial.
Escho – http://escho.net/esc19
What’s Your Rupture – http://www.whatsyourrupture.com/iceage
Abeano – http://www.abeano.com/tag/iceage
Iceage – http://iceagecopenhagen.blogspot.co.uk/
Big Cartel – http://iceagecopenhagen.bigcartel.com/
War/Var – http://www.abeano.com/war-brodermordet/10197
Var – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3RNvX428BNg
Avant Records – http://avantdistro.blogspot.co.uk/
Sacred Bones Records – http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/releases/sbr069/