In a musical statement that seemed to foreshadow his entire career, Icelandic producer and DJ, Bjarki (Runar Sigurdarson) burst forth on to the scene with “I wanna go Bang” via Nina Kraviz’ Trip label. The track propelled this musical talent on an immediate and decisive trajectory with three unique albums following the single in quick succession via Trip.
Together it established an artist who could move between genres effectively, comfortably weaving his way through elements of Hardcore, IDM, Drum n Bass, Techno and Electro; usually conspiring to make bold, and unforgettable impressions on the dance floor. In two years the name Bjarki would go from the obscure into the public eye with music that often bordered on intimidation, but never palled.
His biggest contribution to music would still be left to come however, and it wouldn’t arrive in the form of his own productions, well at least not all of it. In 2017 he and a childhood friend, “Johnny Chrome Silver” would establish the label bbbbbb, a platform for Icelandic artists that extended the spectrum of eccentricities of Bjarki’s music. Eight EP’s and an LP in, bbbbbb is an extension of Bjarki’s own musical inclinations, and not merely for his Cucumb45 alias.
The genre-bending nature of his music is very familiar through the various artists that have joined the label’s ranks, each adding a unique voice to the enigmatic nature of the label. From the cover-art to the artists and the music, there’s something significant about bbbbbb that in its short existence has established it as a label making and releasing music on its own terms; an isolated and quirky institution on an otherwise pallid landscape.
What follows are 6 tracks from 6 releases from the label’s catalogue, featuring Volruptus, EOD, X-Static and Bjarki.
X-static – my inspiration (Bjarki’s ‘sweet thing’ version) – my inspiration EP
The first record to make its way out from bbbbbb did so on thunderous terms, re-issuing a track from X-Static to inaugurate the label. “My Inspiration”, initially released in 1992, is a hardcore track that sampled the vocal from UK soul group The Real Thing and pushed it to hedonistic heights through the sound of UK rave culture.
Bjarki contemporised the track with his Sweet Thing version, bringing it into the present, and letting it linger on the ear for just that little bit longer. Like his breakout hit, “I wanna go Bang”, this mix also skirts that intangible line between the accessible and the obstinate.
Cucumb45 – CyXlobblObs5 – Cyclops EP
Can we just take a moment to admire the cover of this EP. Is that an action figure in a…. The bbbbbb aesthetic is what draws you the label, and it’s in perfect harmony with the sound of records like these. Although there’s a little something of everything on this EP, from the atmospheric Techno of “Aqua Elba” to the funky Electro breaks of “B.U.S.Y”, the title track and opener is that bit of crazy that you require on bbbbbb.
Cucumb45 is Bjarki’s IDM alias, the moniker where he really just spreads his wings. “CyXlobblObs5” is incoherent and yet there are appealing, accessible elements to it all, but it all comes together in a tangled mess of a collage, much like the artwork. There are five songs wrapped up in one, schizophrenic as it pursues each fleeting idea to the next.
EOD – Evenhark – Swurlk
The Norwegian artist is the only artist that appears on the label that’s not Icelandic and the first to release an LP, but more on that later. EPs on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex saw EOD establish a sound that conforms to the melodically rich, rhythmically inconsistent sounds of IDM, that really starts to find it’s form on the album EODS and this EP.
“Evenhark” has a melody that lingers and a percussive arrangement that’s incredibly dense in texture, but just seems to float through the track’s progression. There’s clearly some golden thread here that connects to Aphex Twin’s earlier works, but EOD’s sound on Swurlk seems bigger and bolder with a very analogue sound at its core.
Volruptus – Alien Transmission V2 – Homeblast
This is the big one! The acid-electro track from the Icelandic producer is the record that sparked the hysteria, or hysteria adjusent in terms of club dance music.The combination of that bouncing electro beat, the familiar squawk of the 303 and the vocoder work re-iterating the title of the track over and over again, is immediately intoxicating and hits all the right notes for an underground dance floor sensation. Whenever you put this record on in a set, there’s always a slight pause of recognition, before a frenzied skirmish ensues on the floor.
Bjarki – Drab 2 – Geothermal Sheep Vol 1
The obvious hit and the one to mention on this release would be the A-side, but bbbbbb hardly panders to the masses so neither will we here. We could have gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and picked the destructive, “2 Mewtwo 5 [GRX230P018] BB-) Aprilgabb2” as our choice but sense prevailed and “Drab 2” finds some sweet middle ground on this release.
Uplifting, trance-inducing synth merely caress the atmosphere , while a busy rhythm section provides the necessary dance-floor counterpoint. Yes, you can dance to it.
EOD – Y’ha-nthlei
If you’re looking for easy listening, you’ve come to wrong place, but this track on EOD’s debut LP for bbbbbb and the first LP on the label is the closest you’ll ever get. The Norwegian producer shows some restraint, and even though ratcheting snares and incoherent synth chattering remains his sonic dialect, there’s something serene to this track, like watching a satellite burn up in a distant sun. It’s no coincidence that this our album of the week.