The music of Kiasmos curls itself around you, snug as a glove
January 16, 2015 9:45 AM   Subscribe

If a band opened their set saying they were going to wake people up with techno music, you would probably not expect the musicians to be a BAFTA-award winning modern classical composer and a member from an electronic pop/dance group, but that's how Kiasmos introduced their music during Iceland Airwaves/KEXPort in Reykjavík. If you like what you hear there, here are a few more tracks on Grooveshark, and read on for more on the members of Kiasmos, Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen.

Ólafur Arnalds' story starts the same way as many: playing raucous punk, specifically as a drummer in such groups as Fighting Shit. But as detailed in an interview with Sound on Sound, he was studying music theory and listening to minimalist composer Arvo Pärt. His first venture into sharing a piece he produced was to collaborate with a German metal band, Heaven Shall Burn, who actually chose his work as an intro and outro to their album Antigone in 2004, when Oli was only a teenager.

From there, he gained renown, and was picked up by the UK-based avant-garde Erased Tapes label early in the label's history, and he's been there ever since. To date, he has released three albums: Eulogy for Evolution (2007), ...And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness (2010, partial playlist), and For Now I Am Winter (2013). Add to the mix his Found Sounds project (previously) from 2009, and the similar Living Room Songs (extended video) from 2011, and his award-winning score for Broadchurch, and you have an impressive catalog for an artist under 30. If you want to hear him live, Oli performed with others for KEXP a number of times, and a longer, larger scale performance recorded for NPR's Music Front Row. Erased Tapes also recorded an improv set with Nils Frahm at Roter Salon. If you like Oli's music, his website has a bunch of goodies, including free sheet music.

Janus Rasmussen's band, Bloodgroup, has three albums of their own, released in a similar pattern to Oli's solo work: Sticky Situation (2007, including Moving Like a Tiger (live), Hips Again(music video), The Carpenter, Red Egypt), Dry Land (2009, including My Arms, Wars, First To Go (pro-shot unofficial dance video, making of video), Dry Land), and Tracing Echoes (2013, including Fall (music video), Nothing is Written in the Stars (music video), A King's Woes, The Water). In 2013, Janus also released a dance-pop collaboration album with the Danish musician Gudrid Hansdottir, as Byrta (including Loyndarmál, Norðlýsið), Minnist Tú) and they've released a new single with a music video, Í Tínum Eygum.

Jumping back a few years, to 2008 or 2009 when Ólafur and Janus Rasmussen, the frontman of electro-pop act Bloodgroup started going to clubs together and bonded over a shared love of the music that wasn't being played or produced much. They highlight a track, Roland M. Dill's remix of "Disco Bus" by Lucio Aquilina, as something that fit their joined aesthetic for techno, "hard and heavy but still very minimal." (For recent listening suggestions, they pick out Jamie Jones and Stimming). Then Oli toured with Bloodgroup as their engineer on the road, and he started experimenting with music with Janus, and Kiasmos was born, named as a mis-spelling of chiasmus, when a figure of speech repeats elements in a swapped form (for example John F. Kennedy said "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.") The resulting sound is deceptively "safe," not a collection of dancefloor beacons but rather delicate, soothing sounds that slowly build, "and a twang of strung-out 5am post-club anxiety." But as Josh Suntharasivam wrote for Drowned in Sound, "Listen to it a few more times, though, and you can’t help feeling like ‘safe’ for these guys really isn’t that safe. They just make it sound so easy."
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Alternative title: something about "music for bath tub adverts" (regarding Oli's comment on his piece Ljósið).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:48 AM on January 16, 2015

I was at Airwaves a couple months ago, and my friend saw this KEX show. He insisted we see them later when they played at Harpa. I really like their stuff, but it seems more like "headphone music" than something you jam out to in a big room. Could just be a disappointment in their live performance, though, since I was expecting Oli to play at lease some instruments live and it really was just two dudes with laptops for 45 minutes.
posted by dogwalker at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2015

Yeah, I don't imagine they put on a thrilling live show as far as visual performance from musicians, but that's the problem with most gear-centric shows. Knob twiddling, iPod muckery and a bit of keyboard noodling is nice for an small-scale setting, where you can get immersed in the music and the musicians.

But regarding the scale of the music itself, I would love to hear it somewhere vast with a really good sound system. I listened to this first on crappy laptop speakers, then on better headphones, and finally our new car, which has a good low-end, and it was FANTASTIC. Quite possibly my favorite driving music now, but at the same time I felt confined and I really wanted to dance in an open space to the music.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:12 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nice stuff. Great night driving music indeed. In another "modern-composer-turned-dance-impresario" move, reminds me a bit of Vladislav Delay's work as Uusitalo. (Relatedly: another of Delay's projects, Luomo, remixed by Stimming, mentioned above.)

(Digression re: dance music in a live context ... Maybe it's a gay-vs-straight-culture thing, but I always find it bizarre when people go to DJ/dance shows and just stand in neat, stage-facing rows. Hello, it's dance music, you're supposed to be dancing with one another? Ignore the person on stage and get down, y'all...)
posted by mykescipark at 11:13 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I saw Olafur Arnalds at SXSW a couple of years ago and it was anything but dance. The show was in a side room in one of the churches and it was more like a classical show than anything else. Though the bit where he recorded the audience, fed it through some tool on his laptop, and incorporated it into the song he was performing was pretty punk in its own classical way.

(The Kiasmos album is on my wishlist.)
posted by immlass at 2:55 PM on January 16, 2015

This is great stuff! Thanks for posting!
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:52 AM on January 17, 2015

This is great music and I'd like to thank the OP for bringing it to my attention, I'm buying their album right now.

Having said that, and even though this is my style of music and I'm a musician myself, I have to say watching these guys perform live is about as exciting as watching me install and configure printer drivers for 45 minutes.

(Seriously, I'm that cool while installing printer drivers!)
posted by mmoncur at 10:17 PM on January 17, 2015

mmoncur, rockstar of the tech support world.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:05 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Someone spent a lot of time thinking about this.   |   A picture is worth a thousand calories Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments