Agent Fresco

support Akiri
author AP date 27/01/11 venue Huset, Copenhagen, DEN

Just two weeks ago, the name Agent Fresco meant nothing to me. It was possible that I had heard the name in some context, but I never cared to follow up on hearsay and actually check the band out. Fast forward to end of January: there is no current band I'm more stoked on. It began with Siamese Fighting Fish advertising Agent Fresco as one of their favorite bands and bragging about securing the band for their release show - unfortunately I had commitments elsewhere on that day, but decided to check the band out nonetheless. It took all of one song to convince me that I'd be missing out; and all of one minute to notice that actually the band would be performing the entirety of their debut album at Huset i Magstræde the day before; and all of a heartbeat to decide that there was no way I would miss it. Had "A Long Time Listening" crossed my path a few weeks earlier, it would have been featured on my Best Music of 2010: 20 Rocking Albums in one of the pole positions. Understand, this is one of the best albums ever to have come out of Scandinavia, a true gem. But how would it fare live?

Akiri

Originally it was Adam McCormack - an Irish-born singer songwriter living in Copenhagen - who was to warm up the venue tonight with tender acoustic pieces, but for some reason he was replaced last minute by an experimental electronica/pop act known as Akiri. Flanked by producer/vocalist on the right, and a keyboard enthusiast on the other, frontgirl Anna Lidell is initially successful in diverting the attention from the band's messy 8-bit sound with seductive, bareback overalls leaving little to imagination, but with relentlessly thumping bass, crunk vocals and pointless infusions of violin and drum trigger, Akiri are hardly a band to grace the ears in excess of five minutes. As Anna takes the mic she promises the set to be explosive - however, the only thing exploding is the sterile synth bass: short of some head bobbing and subtle dance maneuvers there is absolutely nothing to behold. Fans of this type of music will most likely disagree, but us being a rockzine and all, stuff like this is the very antithesis to our taste. As such, I experience only dismay during these punishing 40 minutes, and would recommend Akiri to no one in our readership, live or otherwise.

4

Agent Fresco

Agent Fresco are in a giving mood tonight. Apologising that it has been far too long since the Icelandic quartet were last given the opportunity to perform in Denmark, where he spent his childhood, vocalist Arnór Dan Arnarson promises the band are stoked and hoping to play as many songs as possible from their fantastic debut album, "A Long Time Listening". Because the band arrives late from their acoustic performance earlier in the day, this promise is distilled into 12 songs rather than the full 17 they originally had in mind - but 12 of the best nonetheless. You who have had the chance to listen to this masterpiece of an album will know that it comes packing highlights, and highlights only, blending Icelandic folk into radio rock, jazz, and even grindcore in a way that does The Mars Volta and At the Drive-in proud.

Agent Fresco have an advantage in Arnór, as with a voice as versatile as his, delivered in flawless eargasms, everything else might as well be secondary. But what makes this band truly remarkable is that they excel on all fronts, showcasing a subtlety and compositional awareness paralleled only by Moneen in their performance, too. Instruments are regularly exchanged when the multifarious songs so require, with guitarist Þórarinn Guðnason and Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson taking turns at the piano, while Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson shuffles between a traditional bass guitar and an electrically amplified contrabass - and faithful to the ever-evolving structure the band collectively jostles between grinding lunacy, each member spazzing out like Ben Weinman of the Dillinger Escape Plan; emotive moments of calm reminiscent of Thursday at their most fragile; and periods of lucid jamming in the vein of Omar Rodríguez-López, demonstrating their vast capacities as one of the most inventive and shockingly original bands to ever have come out of Europe.

Pop sensibilities seamlessly fuse into influences from metal, ambient and classical music, distorted time signatures, ambitious progressive parts and monumental crescendos with the result that, for the duration of the set, metal heads, indie kids and pop fashionistas alike stand in mesmerized unison, unable to hustle free from the total creative control Agent Fresco exerts over their music and audience. I leave, mind blown, with a new addition to my list of formidable live bands, and indeed to my list of all-time favorite bands in general.

Setlist:

  • 01. Anemoi
  • 02. He is Listening
  • 03. Above These City Lights
  • 04. Silhouette Palette
  • 05. Of Keen Gaze
  • 06. Translations
  • 07. Implosions
  • 08. Pianissimo
  • 09. A Long Time Listening
  • 10. Tiger Veil
  • 11. Tempo
  • 12. Eyes of a Cloud Catcher

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