lately, there’s been a lot of music critics conveniently stuffing various icelandic bands into their mum’s freezer-bags, labelling them as ‘ice-tray music’, ‘glacier-electronica’ or ‘haunted volcanic freeze-dried epics’.
ok, i made some of that up, but really, the band who is our features interviewee this week have not been able to escape such constrictive reviews of their current album, ‘love in times of repetition’ and yet, what a brilliantly warm and inviting listen it is.
press play and let the slow rapture begin with the first track on the album “on the other side”. then, experience head-bobbing moments on tracks like “what have we done” and “there was a pattern” before it all comes to a dreamy close on the very boards of canada-like “cycle starts over”.
make no mistake about it, this is asonat at its best and it’s only their debut album.
unlike other bands trying to find a ‘new sound’, asonat finds its own way among the trees, not afraid to juxtapose the past, present and future of pop electronica and infuse it with a cool fresh vibe that allows it to stand a neck or two above the thick, competitive musical canopy.
it’s a simple music sensibility that a lot of new bands have missed out on in a quest to sound deep, complex and relevant. asonat doesn’t need to think deep, complex and relevant. they already are and they do it seamlessly on this first cinematic outing.
the band is a combination on talents from other bands and solo acts. jonas thor gudmundsson of ruxpin & fannar asgrímsson from plastik joy team up with icelandic artist kjartan olafsson from ampop & kjarr, japanese singer chihiro and the french singer olèna simon to work on this opus debut.
ice cold land snagged an interview with asonat recently as they chatted about their album, stereotypes as well as how the band start a typical day in the recording studio.
like many bands from iceland, you guys are playing in other bands, ruxpin and plastik joy. how do you guys adjust and focus while playing in different bands?
asonat is, in a way, a combination of both our styles and unification of our diverse approach to music. ruxpin is the more technical oriented side while the plastik joy side is the more melodical side of asonat. we have quite an easy time adjusting and focusing on this project, as we are good friends and respect each other opinions. we also respect each other as musicians and are willing to learn from one another.
critics have described your music as ‘intelligent dance music’, ‘glacier electronic band’, ‘frosted glass music’. how would asonat describe their music?
lots of cold descriptions there. could it perhaps in a way be connected to our land of origin? our description is probably more simplified – pop electronica. perhaps critics would be more pleased if we invent our own term – glaciertronica.
awesome! that sounds cool! now, do you ever feel that as a dance/electronic band that people just clump you together with all the other sigur ros’ing sounding bands?
never had that feeling actually. i think we are not so tightly linked with the icelandic scene per se, as our lyrics have been in french, japanese & english and our music is released by the US based label n5MD. probably people do clump us together with those bands, but if so then it’s without our knowledge. we don‘t mind it, in fact, though this is not what we are about.
fair enough. the album ‘love in times of repetition’ seems like a love letter written on a road trip around iceland in winter. what was the inspiration behind the album’s sound?
it is in a way a love letter. the concept and inspiration for the album was about when love becomes a repetition in a way. most of things in modern day revolves around repetitions (daily routines like waking up, eating, working, eating, and going back to sleep). for many so does love. the concept was when love becomes such a repetition that you don‘t fully realise if you are still in love or rather just stuck in the idea of loving. our music is repetitive and that was done on purpose. it was made in the winter time in fact. the cover is also quite representative for our ideas, as it portrays the void between people in modern times of repetition.
what’s a typical asonat day in the studio while putting this record together?
we meet up in ruxpin’s studio and make coffee. we normally start improvising and before we know it a basis for a track has been created. most of the times it’s a certain melody or a feel that catches us. typically we work from morning to night, taking small breaks for dinner, coffee and white tea. the sessions last for a whole day and we come back to the same projects few times after that. we both like the part of musical creation when you focus on the small details and we can totally lose ourselves in that for days.
you collaborate with kjartan olafsson and olena simon on this record as well. what was that like?
jonas had been excited to work with kjartan for a long time, but they had known each other for many year since kjartan was in the electronic pop band ampop. kjartan had just released his debut album under the pseudonym kjarr where he sang himself, while in ampop the singing was mostly in the hands of his partner. we were both excited by the sincerity in his voice and wanted to work with him. kjartan was up for it and hopefully there will be some further collaborations with him in the near future.
oléna had been performing her solo project in a club in downtown reykjavik which jonas attended. her voice seemed perfect for what we had in mind for the track “on the other side. we got her contact, met up for a cup of tea, told her our ideas and she was willing to try it out. the recordings went well and we felt like we wanted to explore this new connection, so we asked her to sing some more. now recently she has been performing with us on concerts and is a frequent guest in our studio.
are there any other artistes you would like to collaborate with on future albums?
we both have certain people that we dream about working with, such as david sylvian, ruyichi sakamoto and many more. there are also plenty of friends and local icelandic musicians we feel like working with and exploring new ideas with. since nothing is certain, lets keep it a secret for now.
do you have any special message for your asian fans?
hmm. i guess first and foremost we are thrilled to have fans in asia and our message to them is: thanks for the support, and hang in there, we’ll figure out a way to come and do live shows around asia 🙂
*‘love in times of repetition’ is available on the n5MD label. the band have recently released ‘forever we ran’, the companion EP to ‘love in times of repetition’, on the same label. get it today. it’s really worth a listen. 🙂