In September 2021, Sonic PR emailed Felix Music asking if we wanted to interview Icelandic duo BSÍ and have press-tickets to their debut London show. The pop-duo had just released their debut album in May, made up of two EPs: Sometimes depressed… but always antifascist. I ignored the email.
A month later, I was looking for something new to listen to (as a pretentious music journalist, I derive most of my life satisfaction from finding new music to get a small dopamine rush when I put it on the aux and somebody asks for a track ID). I remembered this album, and decided to give it a try. Within weeks, I had listened to it so many times that BSÍ were on my 2021 Spotify Wrapped. I was truly ecstatic when I was walking home on Wednesday and saw that the duo had released a two-side on 28th April titled Relax, Blabla, featuring two new singles, ‘Jelly Belly’ and ‘New Moon’.
BSÍ are named after the “most depressing place in Iceland”, the Reykjavik central bus terminal, though on their Bandcamp, they go by ‘Brussels Sprouts International’. They are formed of Sigurlaug ‘Silla’ Thorarensen on drums and vocals, and Julius Pollux Rothlaender on bass and toe-synth. The pop-duo is part of Reykjavik’s art-collective, rooted in anarchist-ideals and based around the idea of DIT (Do-It-Together), called post-dreifing. The movement rejects the music industry’s capitalist model, and instead aims to just create and have fun without focusing on profit. The community is known for countering racism and fascism in Iceland, leading post-dreifing to be seen as a political group, even though many of their artists do not make political music.
BSÍ, however, are openly political in their lyrics. The duo marries punk and summery indie-pop in their songs which cover issues such as sexism and feminism. My favourite song of theirs, ‘My knee against kyriarchy’, is named after a feminist concept that describes an intersectional form of patriarchy covering all forms of oppressive structural hierarchies such as sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. Opposition to oppression is a theme throughout BSÍ’s music, whether they present these themes in riot grrrl inspired songs, or in a buoyant indie-pop bop.
The two singles on Relax, Blabla couldn’t contrast each other more. ‘Jelly Belly’ maintains the danceable, upbeat riffs of previous singles such as ‘My knee against kyriarchy’. The track’s energy is restless and contagious, with a frantic and rushed dissonant bassline that explodes into a fun and optimistic chorus dripping in reverb, as Thorarensen sings “I don’t care if I’m smelly/I don’t care ‘bout my jelly belly”. The band describe the song as a group-therapy session at 157 bpm – the whimsical melodies and dreamy synths and pads conceal the pain and trauma in the lyrics in a way not dissimilar to Mitski’s ‘Nobody’.
‘New Moon’ is a stark contrast. The track is sparse, with little other than whispering vocals set against a subdued baseline. Percussion is intermittent throughout the single, though it is barely noticeable. A dark and moody atmosphere is set through the droning synths in the background as Thorarensen sings “Who knew new moon?/Who knew caring could be so hard?” The track fades out into silence, with little more than a muted synth drone.
BSÍ don’t seem to be playing London anytime soon, though I could not recommend listening to their debut album more, and perhaps checking out some of the other amazing artists coming out of Iceland’s post-dreifing scene.
To read more about Iceland’s post-dreifing collective, and the music coming out of the scene, check out Joe Zadeh’s 2019 article in The Face, and John Rodgers and RX Beckett’s 2019 article in The Reykjavik Grapevine.