Áslaug Magnúsdóttir takes to the stage in near darkness, her face lit only by her laptop screen. A juddering, bassy beat issues forth from the speakers. After less than a minute, she changes lanes, wrenching the sound towards a wash of ambient sound. But before the audience can settle into a groove or a mood, she switches it up again, and then again, and again. The results are a fractured cacophony of wildly varying sounds that’s constantly fascinating.
As a part of respected electronica trio, Samaris, Áslaug’s clarinet is a signature element in their sound. But this is her solo project—which currently has the working title Slugz—and here she’s in control of the whole aesthetic. “I’m actually not sure if I want to be Slugz,” she says. “I haven’t decided who I want to be, and what name I want. I started out with hating my name Áslaug; foreigners can’t pronounce it.”
The uncertainty regarding the name is understandable for an artist stepping out of her comfort zone and taking the plunge into the unforgiving solo-artist river. The search for an identity is also marred by the conflict of not getting boxed in, of allowing the project a strong degree of fluidity and motion. And for an artist so used to working with others, the idea of standing alone can be a daunting prospect.”
The lack of ability
“I’m not really a great musician, but I feel great when I play music, which is probably why I love collaborating,” says Áslaug. “This makes going solo so scary, because now I have to do this all by myself. When I’m with Samaris I have these great people who all play their roles, but now I have to play all the roles, take all the decisions; it is quite scary.”
Despite the apparent anxiety about branching out, taking the sound in a different direction is a welcome challenge for Áslaug. Samaris is very melodic and often quite soothing, and for seven years that has been her sound, but Slugz (as the name seems to indicate) is a hunt for the rough. “I like that it’s not very nice,” she says. “I want to go for this glitchy noise sound.”
The popstar fights the artist
There is, however, an understanding for Áslaug of the importance of beauty in music—just as long as it stays experimental. The project should dance on the line between noise and music. This is what can make it hard to pinpoint her aesthetic—you only know that it is something new, something that’s not stale. “Am I an artist, or a musician? I’m not sure, but I mean it’s a Wednesday and I went out partying yesterday!, So…” says Áslaug, laughing.