Kiasmos – Kiasmos // Album Review

kiasmosErased Tapes – October 27th

In rhetoric, chiasmus is the device by which “two or more clauses are related to each other, through a reversal of structures, in order to make a larger point”. The term serves both as the inspiration for Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen’s collective pseudonym, and a rationale behind their collaboration: to deconstruct and combine their distinct musical styles with the aim of creating something weightier.

What’s immediately striking about Kiasmos is just how far their sound’s evolved since 2009’s split EP with Rival Consoles. Gone are the brutal beats and, instead of minimal techno, we’re given soulful, symphonic electronica that feels like the perfect cross-pollination of Arnalds’ ambient, piano-led compositions and the synth-heavy electro Ramussen makes with Bloodgroup. And it’s a mutually beneficial alliance: synthetic sounds, samples and tape loops accentuate the beauty in acoustic instrumentation, while a string quartet and grand piano lend poignancy to electronic elements.

‘Swayed’ and ‘Bent’ are the most energetic offerings here, the former layering a plaintive piano motif with clipped synths, shuffling beats and a playful topline, the latter redolent of Moderat with its syncopated rhythms and deep, throbbing synths. Another obvious comparison is Jon Hopkins’ Immunity, in the sense that Kiasmos is also all about the slow-burn and that the tracks seem to trace a dramatic arc. Unlike Hopkins, Arnalds and Rasmussen have purposely left us to make our own reading. It’s this understanding – that to truly engage the listener you must leave them space to bring their own meaning – that makes their debut so very special. Intricate arrangements seem minimal thanks to a meticulous use of subtle dynamics, be that the distant sound of the ocean rippling on Lit, the elegiac strings cocooning soft piano on Held, or the frazzled fade-out on ‘Burnt’. The result is a record far greater than the sum of its parts.

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