From Iceland — Higher Frequencies: In The Studio With Plútó

Higher Frequencies: In The Studio With Plútó

Published October 6, 2016

Higher Frequencies: In The Studio With Plútó
Parker Yamasaki
Photo by
Art Bicnick

We move quickly. Rúnar is behind schedule picking up Haukur and Siggi. There’s no time to get beers. We swoop Haukur’s music from his house, swing by Siggi’s house in Hlíðar, and pull into the parking lot of FM Xtra just as the hosts of the previous radio show drive off. Charging in, Haukur hooks his MacBook into a stand, Rúnar runs his fingers through wisps of cords, and Siggi slides in behind a microphone. They pace and plug and talk and then: a beat. A song by Exos comes on through the room’s speakers, and the three bodies are still for ten seconds while Siggi goes on the mic and addresses his radio audience: “yo.” Then the Exos beat comes back into the room, and the pacing and the chatter begin where they left off.

On air Rúnar is known as Nærvera, Haukur as Tandri, and Siggi as Skurður. The three are part of an eleven-member DJ collective called Plútó. Born out of the remnants of the legendary drum and bass club night, along with the Fótafimi (Juke/Footwork) and Lagtiðni (Bass, Grime) DJ groups, the minds behind Plútó comprise the most comprehensive knowledge tank of dance and electronic music in Iceland. “We’re like an art collective, but without the pretentiousness,” Rúnar explains. No artist’s statement.

Every Saturday from 19:00-21:00, Plútó hosts a radio show by the same name on FM Xtra. Their studio, lodged in the somewhere-streets of Garðarbær, pulses with fluorescent green lights and has a massive Beck’s logo smeared across the back wall. There is comfortable seating and plenty of Beck’s to go around. It is clear from the second we enter, though, that the beer is not for drinking, and the couch is not for sitting.

“I get bored easily with popular music,” Rúnar says, pacing and nodding to Tandri’s pulse. “Techno is kind of a ‘last stop’ for me in a way. I was always looking for something more intense, for the bigger party (but not in the like EDM sense of party). I just love to move.” It’s obvious. He hasn’t sat down since we got there nearly an hour ago. “I love to go downtown and dance. Ninety percent of us here are professionals at going downtown for the past billion years.”

The continuity of change

What keeps Rúnar interested in this genre is that the music itself is so open to evolution, while remaining rooted. “In my sets I can play something from 1994 right before something that was released last month. It’s completely open to evolution—Mortiz von Oswald pretty much invented two entire subgenres by himself—but it stays stable at the same time.”

Rúnar, like everyone else involved in the show, is a regular presence as a DJ downtown, but behind the guise of the radio show “we can really play whatever the fuck we want,” he says eagerly. “I like difficult music. When I play a gig, I have to decide whether I will play house that’s easy for people to dance to, or if I will play what I am really excited about. When I started DJing I was okay playing Justice and Daft Punk and the things I thought the crowd wanted, but I realised that takes more energy. It’s better for everyone involved if I play what is really interesting to me. That way, too, I know that everyone who is there dancing really wants to be there dancing.”

It’s hard to get gigs a lot of the time, Rúnar says, but that’s inherent to being ahead of the curve.  On the radio show they are free from the confines of crowd (dis)approval and booking another gig. They are free to push the envelope. Doing so is what this show has built its reputation on.

“We were really the first to play a lot of genres and sub-genres: hip-hop, dubstep, grime… Siggi has one of the largest inventories of grime in Iceland,” Rúnar assures me. “Siggi, when did you start playing grime?” he asks. “When grime started,” Siggi answers.

Nærvera, Tandri, and Skurður churn out two hours of techno like a well-oiled machine. They rotate around the studio, bob to each other’s sets, chat, laugh, smoke, dance. And just like the music that they love, they never really sit still.

Browse the archive of mixes from the show on Plútó’s SoundCloud page, and tune in to the show every Saturday on FM Xtra 101,5 from 19:15-21:15.

On Saturday October 8 Plútó and FALK will host a club night with DJ Perc at Paloma. Event details here. 

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