The sounds of the universe. Bleak, chilly, organic, mysterious, we’re beamed messages from distant galaxies – harmonies and rhythm; could these be mathematical renderings of emotion?
Volruptus makes exceptional machine music which draws on languid UR-electro, pared down Aphex and Miami Bass – his spaced-out record on bbbbbb will likely feature on quite a few end-of-year lists. The Icelandic artist now resides in Berlin, and with a release out now on Nina Kraviz’ трип label, we caught up with him to find out a bit more about Iceland, the music that made him and indeed any far out encounters that he might have had.
Hessdalen is out now on трип – buy it direct from the label.
Where are you right now?
I have lived in Berlin for the past 3 years
Where do you make your music? What equipment do you use/is your most prized? What conditions are essential (room temp/hot beverage/animals/incense)?
I make my music in my room. I use a modular synthesizer, nothing too big, just two rows.
I have a Bellari tube exciter/compressor and a ART graphic EQ. I also use some VST software synths and the ableton sampler a lot.
What’s been your path/route into making music? It seems like you’ve only been releasing over the last couple of years.. who were your influences growing up?
When I was around 14 years old or so, me and some friends would fool around in this program called garageband. use the silliest combination of loops that came with it and record our voices and manipulate them in funny ways. Later I realized that I could sample tunes from my Itunes library and make beats. Later some friends showed me Ableton Live.
One day I saw this documentary called Scratch. I wanted to be a DMC world champion at scratching. I had already been scratching a bit at my friends place but then I got my own turntables. Soon I would be crate-digging for samples. at this time I made almost exclusively hip hop beats, well you could maybe call some of them trip hop beats. But the influences from acts like Prodigy and Aphex Twin would always be lingering under the surface. As I got into more genres and mostly electronic ones I would drift away from hip hop into more experimental mixtures of electro, hardcore/jungle, dubstep, Miami bass and such. Then I lost my computer and my backup. In drunken carelessness I lost it and it got stolen of course. So the first 6 years of my work were gone. At that point I had quite recently gotten my modular, But forgetting my old tunes made my new ones more different and better actually. I had to make a fresh start.
bbbbbb has put some amazing records out this year – what can you tell us about the label? How did you come into contact with them?
I can tell you that the label is bbbbbbrilliant! My friend Árni E showed Nina Kraviz my music when she played in Iceland one time. From there I guess Bjarki heard it also and got interested as well.
How would you define the sound labels like ‘bbbbbb’ have – what is Iceland’s sonic identity? Does Icelandic techno have any discernible traits (to you)? Seems to take cues from Detroit and Berlin, James Stinson etc, has a chilly layer of melancholia and more dubbed-out embellishments (also recurring ‘otherworldly/alien’ imagery)
The sound of bbbbbb is very diverse but always original. I feel that Icelandic producers sometimes make tracks that sound very Icelandic somehow. Like a sonic representation of the landscape or something.
Do you see any circumstantial connections between Iceland/the music you make and the environments of Detroit/Berlin? Or perhaps it is the opposite (the place of nature in icelandic art vs. manufactured Urban/inner-city landscapes).
I guess the connection might be Transgenerational Trauma. To me, naked landscapes, lava fields and mountains and intense wind can easily be transcribed into electronic music. Some places in Iceland look like a different planet or something.
The recurring alien references are particularly intriguing – what is the root of your fascination with extra-terrestrials? Have you ever had an encounter?
I once saw a light in the sky moving in a weird manner. Maybe that was an illusion, maybe it was a UFO. But really I have always been fascinated by life from other worlds and that the universe must be swarming with life. I’m just a big nerd really.
Would you care to elaborate on the title of your new record, Hessdalen – it is also the name of a valley in Norway which has a long history of UFO sightings…
I just called this one track Hessdalen because I had just read about the Hessdalen lights and that is the first track on the record.
How do you explain electro and dub techno to extra-terrestrials? What would you offer to ensure a peaceful encounter?
Music is a universal language. Rhythm and harmony are mathematics. There are almost certainly alien civilizations out there somewhere making techno as well. Hearing would also be an evolutionary trait on most worlds I guess.
What else is good in Iceland? Who should we be watching/looking out for? Can you give us an idea of what is happening right now in terms of electronic music and the community over there?
There is amazing relatively unheard talent there. Look out for: Kosmodod, Kuldaboli, ThizOne, Andartak, Daveeth, Hypno, Hidden people, Futuregrapher. I could go on and on and on. Reykjavík is so small that different music styles and scenes are all tightly connected.
You’re now releasing on Nina Kraviz’s трип label – how did this come about? She’s spoken before about her affinity with Iceland), how did you meet? What do you like about трип?
She heard my music in a bus on her way to play in a cave in Iceland. I first met her in person about a year later or so at a Tombo art show. I like трип for many reasons, the music is diverse, the artworks are cool and Nina and everyone at the label works really hard for all the artists there.
Rephlex and Braindance-esque music has clearly made a significant impression. Can you name a few of your favourite records in that sort of vein?
What does Volruptus actually mean?
What does it mean to you?
What can we expect from you in the near future? Releases, live performances/appearances?
Yes, all of these hehe. I will continue releasing and playing. Some “new” projects will be revealed. Me and Kosmodod are Space Jockeys, look out for that stuff!! I am also a part of Modular Gang.
There is more and who knows what the future will hold!