When Erased Tapes released their celebratory box set ‘Collection V’ last year, with ten artists contributing ten tracks across five seven inch singles, my initial attention was drawn by exclusive tracks from Olafur Arnalds, Peter Broderick and, of course, Nils Frahm. Their offerings didn’t disappoint, but equally exciting was the chance to dabble with other artists and sounds from this most consistent of labels. I wrote in some detail about the label’s magnificent 2013 here and, in that piece, I observed that “Kiasmos were my revelation, with skittering beats and the dramatic sense of slowly building release in ‘Driven’.” A collaboration between Janus Rasmussen and the aforementioned Arnalds, the duo had been tinkering together since 2007, but had thus far released a track on a split 7″ in 2009 and an EP in 2012. There was very little to provide a further fix and so, wholly enamoured of this remarkable track, I immediately fired off an email begging the label for more. Nothing yet, but an album is on its way for 2014, I was told.
And here we are, with a self-titled debut that genuinely excites. Combining live drumming, strings and a grand piano with synthesisers, drum machines and various sonic wizardry, they have produced…a classical techno album, an ambient dance record, a belter by anyone’s standards. It’s hard to say exactly what the hell this is, but it gets under your skin from the very first listen. Like the very best electronic musicians, Rasmussen and Arnalds meticulously control the rise and fall of these tracks, building and building layers before detonating the emotional surge that the genre does better than almost any other. As sparse at it can seem – the little flecks of piano on ‘Dragged’, the soft percussive early stages of ‘Lit’ – there is a true emotional resonance to this material. It will scoop you up and carry you along, be it the early hours of the morning through a pair of headphones or booming out of speakers at the height of summer. Just as the songs slowly mutate, so too their impact upon the listener as circumstances dictate.
Recorded in Arnalds’ own studio in Reykjavík and with delightful little details like a lighter being flicked replacing the sound of a hi-hat, ‘Kiasmos’ is a strikingly special album. ‘Bent’ offsets a beautiful piano part with a writhing, mutating synth line that takes the whole thing up to another level, while ‘Thrown’ concludes proceedings with a purposeful throb that sinks into a breathtaking orchestral wash. Erased Tapes are now at the stage where you can buy every single one of their releases without even the merest hint of risk. That said, this one’s a little different. Where the beauty of so many of the records they put it out is bare, haunting and immediate, here it is entwined in a nagging pulse, a writhing energy and a relentless euphoria. It’s hard to say without sounding like an arse, but ‘Kiasmos’ just sounds so alive.