Initiated around 2009 as an intriguing fusion project aimed at exploring “the area in-between Ólafur’s more acoustic, piano-based solo work and Janus’s synth-heavy electro pop”, Kiasmos quickly turned into a hugely successful dance act on the festival circuit worldwide. Since 2014, both musicians have been constantly on the road and the duo’s schedule shows no sign of abating. Following a first EP in 2012, Kiasmos’ self-titled début album was released on Erased Tapes Records in October 2014.

Kiasmos (2014)
Kiasmos (2014)

Even though he started his career as a drummer for heavy metal bands, Ólafur Arnalds’ name is rather associated with modern classical and ambient music. The musician has released three studio albums and four EPs to date, collaborated with Nils Frahm and with classical pianist Alice Sara Ott on The Chopin Project and achieved international recognition with his BAFTA award winning score for the British TV series Broadchurch.

Originally from the Faroe Islands, electronic musician Janus Rasmussen has been a member of electro-pop quartet Bloodgroup since 2006 and moved to Iceland in 2008. Both musicians first met when Ólafur was working as a sound technician on a Bloodgroup tour, and a very interesting partnership ensued.

As is often the case with many contemporary modern classical musicians, electronic music forms an integral part of their musical DNA. Ever since his début with Eulogy for Evolution in 2007, Ólafur Arnalds has incorporated electronic layers into his piano and string-led compositions.

Envisioned with a methodical “less is more” approach, every song on Kiasmos is built upon a very simple chords/notes progression on the piano or keyboard (“Lit”, “Looped” or “Dragged”) and is slowly fleshed out with further layers of syncopated beats, subtle hi-hats loops, tinkling harmonic counterpoints and acoustic live instrumentation – the album features Ólafur himself on grand piano, Viktor Orri Árnason on violin/viola, Unnur Jónsdóttir on cello and Magnús Trygvason Eliassen on live drums.

“Crying on the dance floor”

This deliberate minimal approach combined with the addition of strings and percussion in the recording studio somewhat transformed the initial fusion concept into what the musicians have dubbed themselves “emotional dance music”.

The result surprised us a bit, it’s deeper and more emotional than we imagined it to be, but that’s the beauty of being able to make an album.” – Janus Rasmussen

The orchestral swoops on “Held” or “Looped” for instance are truly spectacular and build up to a poignant crescendo while “Thrown” ends up with a beautiful cello and viola coda. With each track seamlessly flowing into the next on the recorded CD/LP, repeated listening slowly reveals the rhythmic intricacies and sonic amplitude of the album while stunning visuals and light shows turn the duo’s music into electric and euphoric live performances.

The Kiasmos emotional rollercoaster continues on with the release of the Swept EP (still on Erased Tapes Records) in November 2015 last and more recently in June 2016 with one new track (“Orgoned”) on the latest instalment of the Late Night Tales series curated by Olafur Arnalds.