With a beauty as arresting as their own stark Atlantic hinterland, Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds and Faroese musician Janus Rasmussen have broken our hearts.
The Bloodgroup producer conjures subtle techno backdrops upon which Arnaulds flashes beautiful sonic sketches from his grand piano. ‘Lit’ and ‘Held’ are ponderous, introverted and blushing with strings. This latter especially is haunted, with Arnalds’s cyclic fingers on the piano circling a cello drenched in its own sadness.
Although the pair is at pains to describe their found-sound credentials – they’ve allegedly sampled lighter grinders and studio clicks – Kiasmos enforce a stark production bed devoid of any clutter. Which avidly helps these eight tracks swerve away from any accusations of being progressive house, such is the danger when playing such cerebral piano hooks over pulsating rhythms.
Their pauses and gaps become pillars from which they can stretch their minimalism. The hypnotic opening to ‘Looped’ sighs with the relief of space before it breaks gently into the more aggressive ‘Swayed’. We move once more.
Their narrative doesn’t deviate from the triptych of clean percussion, piano and esoteric electronics, yet Kiasmos evolve to bisect the territory inhabited by Jon Hopkins, Stephan Bodzin or Nicolas Jaar. There’s a strong sense of cruising, examining phrases before leaving them behind for a heavier smudge of lower frequencies. Eventually ‘Dragged’ and the gargantuan ‘Thrown’ swell large as seething, molten soundscapes contemptuous of calm.
If ‘Kiasmos’ was a hitchhiker you’d probably reverse. Striking, graceful and completely naked, this cold album hovers at the neglected crossroads where dance music meets the overgrown trail of modern classical, begging for a ride back towards the warmth of your ears.
Words: Matthew Bennett
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