Kiasmos | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, February 20th, 2024  


When the Unicorn Met the Wise Ape

Jun 25, 2015 Best Kept Secret 2015
Bookmark and Share

It’s a hot day at Best Kept Secret, and Janus Rasmussen and Ólafur Arnalds are incredibly relaxed. (It probably doesn’t hurt that deep into their swing through the summer festival circuit, they’re both nursing slight hangovers.) Still, both musicians visibly cringe when the idea of an “obvious” question is brought up. It’s actually a query about their band name (a bastardization of the word ‘chiasmus,’ which they’re quite happy to discuss). But the members of Kiasmos were expecting something else—once again having to describe what it’s like to be a working band from Iceland.

“I couldn’t imagine if I had to go to the studio with somebody in Los Angeles, Rasmussen muses. “You’d probably have to plan it in advance in a long time. And then you spend two hours in traffic, get there and nothing happens. That would totally bum me out. But that doesn’t happen.”

By their estimation, Kiasmos, in its early stages, began back in 2006. Having repeatedly mixed Bloodgroup while working as a sound tech at a local club called Organ, Rasmussen invited Arnalds to come on tour with his band, doing both sound work and heavy lifting. (“I don’t carry stuff anymore!” Arnalds jokes at the memory.) Along the way, they discovered a shared love to techno.

“It was really funny, him putting up huge PAs,” Rasmussen recalls. “Every night we’d put on a techno tune and be like, ‘whoa!’…It was hard and fast and evil. Very dark. Really dark. If I listen to it today I don’t really understand myself. It’s really heavy.”

Their collboration began as a way for Rasmussen and Arnalds to tap into their shared influences while killing hours in transit. Both members describe their initial tracks, released by British label Erased Tapes in 2009, as “deep and weird.” Encouraged by the initial response to their collaboration, but buffeted by responsibilities (Rasmussen regularly gigs as a producer, Arnalds, who won a BAFTA for his work on BBC series Broadchurch, is in demand both as a solo artist and composer), it would take until early 2014 for the pair to find uninterrupted work time. Schedules cleared, they pounded out an idea a day for two weeks—shaping the best of them into what would become their self-titled debut.

Pointed away from the dance floor throb of their earlier work, Kiasmos, is a fusion of hopped-up beats and unabashed sentimentality, disco groves and ambient synth drones mixed into a throbbing, post-pop swirl. There’s a definite bite—the abrasive pulls of “Thrown” and the deep, twisted thump of “Bent” reveal artists unafraid of hitting hard. With their approach changing from song to song, and the cascade of ideas that inevitably follow their free-form approach, both men claim they can’t even pick out their individual collaborations at this point. Mind-melding, it seems, isn’t completely out of the question. After all, at this point they know each other really, really well.

“Janus’ spirit animal is a purple unicorn,” Arnalds offers.

“Oli is like this really grand, old ape,” Rasmussen cracks.

Old and wise? Yes, agrees Arnalds.

“I go ooo ooo oo!” he laughs, mimicking a monkey. “But then I have some wisdom for the young ones.”

At this Rasmussen and Arnalds laugh.

“I’ve been touring a lot for the last seven or eight years,” Arnalds continues, confirming that working with your best friend is every bit as fun as one might imagine. “But this is a different experience. It’s very exciting for me, even if initially the shows were a couple of steps smaller. Suddenly everything is a little less pro and there’s a little less crew and infrastructure. It’s very exciting to try something else. But it’s growing very fast.”



Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.