Album Reviews

Kiasmos – II

(Erased Tapes) UK release date: 5 July 2024

Predominantly quiet and unobtrusive it may be, but Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen’s first album in a decade is utterly enchanting

Kiasmos - II A full decade after their 2014 debut, the release of this long overdue follow up album from experimental duo Kiasmos is a very welcome surprise. The first, self-titled collaboration between these two old friends – Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds and Faroese musician Janus Rasmussen – was a meticulously crafted synergy of minimal techno beats and classical music structures, expertly blending organic and electronic textures into a seamless whole that was both icily elegant and subtly rhythmic.

Since then, bar two excellent EPs, 2015’s Swept and 2017’s Blurred, Kiasmos have essentially been in hibernation, with Arnalds continuing to carve out a successful career as one of the most acclaimed modern composers around. However, it turns out that he and Rasmussen have been working on a second album for several years, with a number of tracks featured on II written together back in 2020 and 2021.

As Janus explains, the making of II was a lot about finding their way back to the spirit of the duo’s lasting bond: just don’t overthink it. “The thing with long friendships is, you don’t need to force anything,” says Janus. “Sometimes life just happens, but then you meet again, and it’s just the same.” 

While the Kiasmos template laid down on their 2014 debut isn’t radically altered, their new record does evolve their sound into something fuller and more ambitious. In particular, the confident sweep of the string arrangements, courtesy of SinfoniaNord, a division of the North Iceland Symphonic Orchestra, bear the stamp of Arnalds’ development as a soundtrack composer during the intervening years.

Standout tracks include Sailing, which glides along serenely propelled by intricate percussion before fading away into nothingness, the urgent, propulsive beats of Bound and the fluttering exoticism of the Balinese gamelan-sampling Flown, which intertwines beautifully with one of the album’s best string parts. Best of all is the penultimate Dazed, which combines a wistfully pretty piano melody with a languid beat, delicate waves of synths and field recordings of the pair’s natural surroundings before another sumptuous swathe of strings brings a blissful conclusion. The album closes with Squared, an ever-shifting, slow building tapestry of electronic rhythms and soaring orchestration which bears similarities to the work of Floating Points.

Like its predecessor, Kiasmos II could be unkindly described as background coffee table music, as it is predominantly quiet and unobtrusive. But while fireworks are few and far between, those who immerse themselves fully in the sonic experience will find it utterly enchanting.

buy Kiasmos MP3s or CDs
Spotify Kiasmos on Spotify

More on Kiasmos
Kiasmos – II
Kiasmos – Kiasmos