Úlfur Eldjárn is an Icelandic composer, a member of the Apparat Organ Quartet, and now, a solo artist too. “The Aristókrasía Project started as an outlet for ideas that didn’t fit my band, or my work as a composer,” he explains. “It turned into this cryptic concept album, a retro-futuristic dystopia of space travel, human-machine relationships and science. Musically it combines my weaknesses for both analog synthesisers and classical instrumentation. On the record I was lucky enough to work with a quartet of incredibly talented string players, and my friend Samuli Kosminen added his unique style of modified drums, scrapyard percussion and progressive laptop electronics to the mix.”
The opening song sets the stage for the album’s hidden narrative. “Dagsbrún” means “dawn” or the “edge of dawn.” I wrote it after gazing at one too many paintings by Simon Stålenhag. I think the terror in his pictures is apparent in the song.
At the time of writing this song I was reading a fantastic science fiction novel called ‘Blueprints of the Afterlife’ by an American author, Ryan Boudinot. The novel is very psychedelic, full of mind-bending ideas about the future, written out of real concern for life and the damage we are doing to it. I was also thinking about the artificially intelligent supercomputer called Deep Blue that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in a chess match in 1997. An incredible feat and defeat for mankind. Somehow I got its name wrong and called it “Blue Eyes,” which I also liked.
Hands Up in the Air
Originally I was trying to create something for synthesisers in the spirit of Debussy and late romantic French composers, but it ended up being a kind of a brainless party anthem for space travel. Afterwards I realised some influence from M|A|R|R|S’s classic hit “Pump Up the Volume” may have slipped in there.
This is my homage to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man in space, and the first to see the Earth from space. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Soviets managed to pull of this mission in 1961, without any of the digital equipment or fancy computer technology that we have today. The lyrics are based on his communication with Ground Control during the flight, where he describes the emotions and thoughts going through his mind as he orbits the Earth. He expresses wonder and amazement about how beautiful the Earth is, and warns us that we must do everything to preserve it. It’s pure poetry. “Poeykhali!” means “Let’s go!” in Russian, which were Gagarin’s last words before takeoff.
The History of Science
The lyrics in this song are my miserable attempt at telling the history of science in less than 100 words. I’m interested in the way science has become our philosophy of life. It has replaced religion, art and poetry as a source of spirituality. We seek elevation and inspiration from watching wildlife documentaries or reading science journals. Science is our new gospel.
I Feel Love
I was trying to write a love song about some kind of relationship between a human being and an artificially intelligent entity. I had in mind that scene from ‘Electric Dreams’, where the female lead is practising on her cello and the computer starts interacting and playing along with her. She ends up falling in love with the computer, but the relationship is of course disastrous. This kind of science fiction is becoming our reality today. We’re becoming more and more emotionally involved with the algorithms of social media, interacting with our household appliances and so on. But I think it’s also interesting to look at human-machine relations from the machine’s point of view. What is that Speak & Spell feeling? Can it feel love?
A tribute to the Voyager mission. Voyager 1 and 2 are unmanned spacecraft which have travelled further into space than anything else from Earth. They were launched in 1977, so this year they will have been travelling for 40 years. Both of the Voyagers carry a copy of the ‘Golden Record’: a unique collection of sounds, images and data that were chosen to represent humanity if either of the spacecraft would ever come into contact with other lifeforms.
The album is released on April 12. Get a free download at ulfureldjarn.com.