A Transnational Bedroom Community in Reykjavík
Tony Mitchell [+]
University of Technology, Sydney
Bedroom Community, formed in 2005, is a highly unusual record label. Based in Brei∂holt, which has been described as an immigrant ‘ghetto’ on the outskirts of Reykjavík, it currently involves a roster of nine musicians: Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon, Puzzle Muteson, Paul Corley, and Nadia Sirota, who all reside in the USA, two Icelanders, label founder Valgeir Sigur∂sson and composer-conductor Daniel Bjarnason, an English organist, James McVinnnie, and a transplanted Australian, Ben Frost, who moved to Iceland in 2005, after a visit to Valgeir’s studio in 2003. Eight of these musicians performed together on the same bill at a special Bedroom Community showcase at the Iceland Airwaves festival in 2012, and five of them in Reykjavík’s landmark church Hallgríminskirkja in 2013. The label’s musical identity is difficult to pinpoint, as it ranges from Frost’s noise-oriented Theory of Machines, the title track of which was included on Mary-Anne Hobbs’ 2008 UK dubstep compilation Evangeline, to weird acoustic Americana folk albums by Amidon and Muteson, classical albums by Muhly and Bjarnason, and electronica by Sigur∂sson and Corley. Bjarnason’s highly dramatic Processions involved the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer, along with the harp and percussion duo Harpverk, who commission works from young Icelandic composers, and recorded an album mastered by Valgeir in 2012 in Greenhouse Studios, Bedroom Community’s in-house state of the art recording studio, which has operated since 1997. Corley released his debut album, Disquiet, in 2012, dark, Eno-esque piano-specked ambient electronica, McVinnie an album of organ pieces by Nico Muhly in 2013, and violist Sirota an album of pieces by various composers including Bjarnason, Corley and Muhly, in collaboration with McVinnie, Sigur∂sson, Bjarnason and Corley . Besides being label founder and main producer, Valgeir was Björk’s main studio engineer from 1998 to 2006, and has produced recordings by other Icelandic artists such as Múm, Slowblow, rappers Quarashi and troubadour Megas, as well as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s 2006 album The Letting Go, Canadian singer Feist and English pop group the Magic Numbers. Early work on Björk’s 2004 album Medúlla was done at Greenhouse Studios, and Björk and Valgeir collaborated on the soundtrack for Lars Von Trier’s 2000 film Dancer in the Dark. This chapter examines Bedroom Community as a microscosm of the Reykjavik music scene, where genres cross and become entangled.