Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
The hip hop scene in Iceland has been off the chain these past few years, and one of the most exciting groups to come out it of it is CryptoChrome. The Reykjavik quartet brand themselves as electronic folk rap, but at the foundation of their sound is just some really good trip-hop. Fans of Bjork’s recent work and groups like Portishead and Thievery Corporation, and even some older work from Gorillaz, will get a kick out their latest release. Filled with dim lit electronica and engaging rap verses, More Human is a modern example of what the 21st century really sounds like. Singer Una, lyricist Anik and producer S.O.N. (formerly of the European EDM staple Dark Circle), and producer Leigh Lawson have created something that sounds in debt to the groups listed above, but also presents something fresh and new.
With the sounds of the first two songs on the record, Portishead immediately comes to mind through Una’s mysterious vocals along with production and beats that would’ve sounded right at home on Dummy. That’s not to say CryptoChrome hasn’t found their own life in their sound, however; the single “Gameone” features a more hip-hop oriented sound with mellow flows from both Una and Anik. “Let me ruffle up your leaves/Let me climb your walls/Let me do it even though I did the same before” sings Una on the standout track.
On “Charing”, Una takes the reins with her icy and shiver-inducing vocal take. There are also crystal clear drums on the track – seeming to come from a sample. The incredibly satisfying “Clappo” belong at the top of any of the best trip-hop playlists, as it gives the listener a straightforward beat matched with an almost atonal lead line – one that sends you back in time to the 90’s when trip-hop was in its prime. “And you couldn’t be further from the truth/It was you, you let them in/They went upon the roof”, moans Una under the quiet chaos.
In an interview with the Reykjavik Grapevine, the artistic dependence of Anik on new member Leigh Lawson is explained: “The people he’s been working with so far—their jaws have dropped at what he can do… Leigh is very high calibre. And it’s great for the band to have a base, to develop the live show and move things on.” Of the process of making the record, Una says: “It’s been really positive to gather all the energy from my different creative outputs, and put it all into one project… It feels like everything I’ve done has been leading up to this—whether it’s acting, design, marketing, or singing. When you grow up doing many things, it can be difficult—you hit a point where you feel like you’ve done an awful lot, but it’s scattered around and doesn’t add up to much. But here, in this band—this is what I’ve been working towards. It all really makes sense.”
Indeed, CryptoChrome haven’t just created a piece of art for the sake of artwork – they’ve taken the collective thought of four different individuals and turned it in to a stunning piece of music. As their second album, More Human builds on everything their debut record delivered. If their self-titled record was a thesis for the group, More Human delivers the body of the essay and confirms that the foursome is one of Iceland’s most promising modern musical acts.