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ICEAGE Thawing Out

 

“You want to be heard, to feel like the message is coming through. When people say that they’re there to hear loud music, I don’t feel satisfied with that.”

Iceage

Straight outta Copenhagen, Iceage have just released their third album, Ploughing Through The Fields Of Love. ALEX GRIFFIN reports.

If Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s phone manner sounds like he’s been flattened by a bus, he’s got every reason to feel like it. Finishing up a fortnight’s break after three years of non-stop touring, the rakelike frontman of Denmark’s greatest export since Lego is gearing up to hit the road again for another year in support of his band’s new album, Ploughing Through The Fields Of Love.

While the first two Iceage albums were terrifying, like a moshpit in a hearse, Ploughing is a more sprawling, friendly beast. Replete with horns, piano, and even the occasional country shuffle, it looks into the abyss and grins where 2011’s dangerously nihilistic postpunk classic, New Brigade,might have jumped in. To Rønnenfelt, though, it’s just more of the same, done differently. “The last record was a perfect document of what we were trying to do at the time. I guess I’d say the same thing about the new one, so in that sense, there isn’t a huge difference. Really, I guess what it comes down to is that the new record explores maybe more territory than last one, or the first one.”

This idea of constant progress has been central to Iceage from the beginning, from their intense touring schedule to setlists that are comprised mainly of songs that haven’t even been laid to tape yet (be warned for that one if you’re seeing them soon, Rønnenfelt cautions: there might not be any hits). Forming in 2007 at an age where most tweenage boys are nose-deep in a Nintendo DS, the band developed adjacent to the Danish anarchist punk scene which was based around the condemned commune, Ungdomshuset, which closed as Iceage started out.

As Ronnenfelt remembers, they were heady days. “Before anyone knew about us, it was pretty much just a group of friends who came to our show, the same every time we played. Together we trashed the place, whatever the venue was; for us it was more about breaking furniture than actual music. Things are pretty different now.”

If that sounds like wistfulness, it isn’t, and Ploughing’s great leap forward makes it clear that Iceage have finally arrived at something bigger than the destruction they started with. “It’s been four years since we played a show like one of those. If didn’t progress any further than not tuning my guitar and breaking furniture it’d be pretty sad.”

Part of this has been turning to new influences (surprisingly, including Love’s psychedelic classic, Forever Change), but it’s hard for the band to pick out what comes from where, something that extends to Rønnenfelt’s brooding, ecstatic lyrics. At a time when Nick Cave is as likely to be spotted in a theatre or an art gallery as on a stage, literary singers such as Rønnenfelt are increasingly in vogue, and his moody, neo-gothic declarations ring out like Baudelaire in black jeans.

His original inspirations were Jean Genet and Georges Bataille (“a real eye-opener”), writers who are respectively most famous for a novel told from solitary confinement in prison, and an orgy involving the irregular use of an egg.

“It was the first literature that made me want to write. I felt like I could relate to their way of putting far too much significance into every day, simple events. It was very inspiring, but since then, it’s hard to tell what actually influences me.”

Early on, the band’s outfits and interviews suggested an ambiguous relationship with white supremacy, with Bender producing zines full of pagan runes and drawings that suggested violence against Muslims; briefly they were even selling official Iceage knives at the merch table. While the band has often had to deny these accusations, Bender is keen to put them in the past, and his exhaustion with fans who come to Iceage shows to beat each other up and blast their ears out bears this out.

“You want to be heard, to feel like the message is coming through. When people say that they’re there to hear loud music, I don’t feel satisfied with that.”
Despite also having just finished mixing a record for his neo-folk project Marching Church, Bender seems vaguely horrified at the idea of not having anything new at hand to sink his teeth into.

“I feel drained. Which has left a silence in my head and sparked a panic I haven’t had before, of having nothing to work on. I’m only recently getting vague notions of ideas again. I guess I can’t say much because there’s nothing going on at the moment, which is worrying!”

Considering the rate at which Bender and co. have mapped out new territory over the last few years, it’s hard to imagine that lasting very long. As ever, Iceage will keep on ploughing on, through whatever fields their journey takes them.

 

 

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