Blurred Then Paused: Kiasmos Brighten Up, Then Fade Out - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Blurred Then Paused: Kiasmos Brighten Up, Then Fade Out

Blurred Then Paused: Kiasmos Brighten Up, Then Fade Out

Published September 19, 2017

Photos by
Art Bicnick

“Janus doesn’t really like doing interviews,” laughs Ólafur Arnalds, one half of the techno duo Kiasmos. He throws open the doors of his dimly-lit studio space, tucked away in a former industrial building on Grandi, and says, in a joking-not-joking tone, “But then, who does?”

The reason for speaking to our reluctant interviewee is a new Kiasmos EP, entitled ‘Blurred,’ which will be released before the pair goes on hiatus for Ólafur to focus on his solo work. It’s a close continuation of their sound so far. “We made ‘Blurred’ in the spring, so it has a summer vibe,” says Ólafur. “It’s a little brighter than our previous stuff, but we didn’t feel like reinventing everything would be the right thing to do at this moment.”

Planned, formed

The pause comes after two years of playing live around the world for ever-growing and increasingly devoted audiences. But creatively, it makes sense. Ólafur explains that he and Janus see their work to date as part of a series. “You could put it all together as one album,” he says. “This EP is the last one in that series.”

“I think we surprise people sometimes—they think they’re going to a show but they’re actually going to a fucking rave.”

Like everything to do with Kiasmos—from the onstage symmetry, to the slick, organised sound, ever-related song titles, and geometric artwork—their plan has the feeling of being meticulously thought out. But, according to Ólafur, it’s all a lot more spontaneous than it looks. “Kiasmos is a lot of happy accidents,” he explains. “But each decision affects the next one. We liked that band name, and when we started thinking about it, it affected everything else. We didn’t have everything all planned out, but when one thing lines up, everything else starts lining up as well.”

For Ólafur, who’s most known for his soundtrack work and compositions for piano and strings, playing with Kiasmos is a welcome break. “For me, it’s like getting out of house,” he laughs. “You know—you live in a house, and it’s a nice one, with everything you need. But you need to go outside sometimes.”

Pumped, surprised

When Kiasmos do go outside, they go in style. Their live shows are a far cry from the chilled tone of the recordings, with Ólafur and Janus taking evident pleasure in pumping up their sound. “We wanted from the beginning for the show to be a party,” says Ólafur. “There’s a lot added to the songs when we play live, to give them a more danceable quality. We wanted people to dance, and we wanted blinking lights and lasers, and to go all-out. I think we surprise people sometimes—they think they’re going to a show but they’re actually going to a fucking rave.”

Before embarking on a farewell tour over the coming months, Kiasmos will play a hometown show at Húrra to celebrate their new EP. These days, the small downtown venue is an intimate setting for Kiamos. “Last weekend we played at the Royal Festival Hall in London,” says Ólafur. “We were really nervous about it—we’d even planned some ambient improvisations because we were worried people would just sit there, and silently judge everything under all these strobes and lights and lasers. But then, the first beat kicked in, and 2,500 people jumped to their feet. I thought, ‘okay, this is getting big.’ But we’re not quitting. We’ll be back in a year or so with something new.”

Kiasmos play at Húrra on September 30. ‘Blurred’ comes out Oct 6, via Erased Tapes.

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