Iceland is a notoriously beautiful country. About one-third of its population lives in its metropolitan capital, Reykjavik; the rest of the country is mostly greenery, mountains, and wildlife as far as the eye can see, with really just one two-lane road connecting it all. Anyone who’s seen it in the sunlight might describe it as among the most breathtaking, humbling sights out there; anyone who’s seen it in the clouds, the rain, the snow might describe it as beyond unsettling, resembling some post-mortal omen that words can’t quite capture.
aYia jarringly balances these two Icelandic extremes across its forthcoming self-titled debut album. aYia is perhaps the most highly anticipated debut album by an Icelandic artist in recent memory; when the band released its debut single “Water Plant” just months before Iceland Airwaves 2016, everyone familiar with Iceland’s music scene knew they were hearing the future of Icelandic electronic music. The band even managed to play a prestigious KEXP Iceland Airwaves session at Kex Hostel that year without releasing any further music (and they’ll play Iceland Airwaves again this November).
“Slow,” aYia‘s newest single, arrived aside the recent album announcement, and it’s accompanied by a video that places a small cast of people in some of Iceland’s most chilling environments (with some bonus Los Angeles footage to boot). Like the song around which it’s built, the video contrasts the stark desolation of Iceland’s vast expanses with the sheer, overwhelming beauty of its nature-heavy lands. Shots of a faceless motorcyclist on a two-lane road that cuts through grass and around mountains, smoke stacks outlined by nearly black dirt, and pristine churches in lots with little plant life are among the video’s formative blocks. It all feels a bit like that one Black Mirror episode shot in and around Reykjavik and Iceland.
Visually, the country aYia calls home movingly complements its music. “Slow” is exemplary of the band’s synthetic dread: Its high-pitched, gently flowing vocals resemble a ghost drifting across the countryside, and the computerized abyss of synths, percussion, and vocal samples that outlines the song sounds like a terrifying sister to an ’80s sci-fi score. aYia’s music follows the lead that recent Icelandic artists including GANGLY and Högni have set with their haunting, disquieting digital music: Dash pop music with hints of complete and total fear, mess up the percussive pattern just a bit, and you get something that almost manages to capture Iceland’s nightmarish mysticism.