Stereo Hypnosis On Improvisation And Genre-Free Living - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Stereo Hypnosis On Improvisation And Genre-Free Living

Stereo Hypnosis On Improvisation And Genre-Free Living

Published May 3, 2019

Photos by
Courtesy of Stereo Hypnosis

Stereo Hypnosis shows are a journey. A band that intentionally try to shake off categorisation, their work contains elements of many genres, from post-rock guitars to ambient washes of sound, to heady electronica mixed with motorik flashes. Live, they segue effortlessly from track to track, inviting the audience to get lost in their immersive ocean of sound.

Their latest album clocks in at four songs over forty minutes. The opener, ‘Klif,’ is reminiscent of the hazy analogue drone of Boards of Canada, or perhaps Aphex Twin at his most ambient; it eventually spirals into a slow, spacious, insistently rhythmic composition. ‘Heiði’ is brighter, sliding out of the speakers like a light horizon. ‘Heggur’ sounds like a chamber orchestra score played on synths through a huge, blinking pedal board; ‘Tangi’ nods to more propulsive, contemporary sounds.

Going up country

The album is a collaboration with Christopher Chaplin. “We first met at the Extreme Chill Festival in 2016 where Christopher performed with Hans-Joachim Roedelius,” says Pan Þórarinsson, one of the central figures of the band. “The following year, we played a concert in Fríkirkjan, and from that things gradually developed.”

“For us, it is about improvisation and diving into the unknown at a certain time and place.”

The group took the unusual decision of packing off to Hvammstangi, just off Route One in northwest Iceland. A fishing town of 580 people known mostly for its shrimp fishing and textile factory, there wasn’t a recording studio to be found. “It’s a beautiful place and a mysterious place to be, and we got offered space to work in from friends,” says Pan. “We had to take everything for the recording as there is not a professional studio there. Our instruments and recording gear were brought along with us. The building we used was an old community house with a magnificent view over the Heggstaðanes peninsula.”

Diving Into The Unknown

The resulting material has a sprawling, freewheeling quality; like it’s perhaps more about conjuring up a texture, feeling or moment that “getting somewhere”, per se. “Nothing was decided before we went,” says Pan. “But, of course, we had played numerous times before so that made the recording process was a bit more relaxed. It went well, and we recorded everything in one sitting. Some of the tracks came out of longer improvisations, then we edited and mixed them afterwards.”

While Stereo Hypnosis are clearly extremely dedicated and passionate about the expansive, ambient psychedelia they make, they seem reticent about discussing its finer points, clamming up whenever any genre is mentioned. “We understand that people need to put labels on all music,” they say. “But, that said, we are not really thinking about ‘ambient.’ It’s become a bit of a cliché. For us it is about improvisation and diving into the unknown at a certain time and place. Every time we do, something unexpected happens, and that is really the magic for us.”

“People are then free to interpret the music in any way they want to,” they finish. “Perhaps it’s like a break from routine, to dive into oneself.”

‘BJARMI’ is out now on Fabrique. Find it on Bandcamp.

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