Album of the Week: Bjarki – Happy Earthday

A phenomenal and prolific recording artist; an incredible live performer and head of a trailblazing record label; Bjarki has accomplished all this in a mere few years, and he’s done it all on his own terms. His very first single “I wanna go Bang,” simply catapulted the latent super-producer into the mainstream, with one of the biggest  Techno jaunts of 2015 thank to Nina Kraviz’ Trip label. He quickly followed it up with three extensive LPs the following year, showcasing an elcectic array of sonic hues from the artist. From stark functionalism to freeform electronica, it soon became clear that Bjarki had an extensive palette when it comes to electronic music, and that’s before we even get to his work under aliases like Cucumb45. For the past two years, his label bbbbbb has been an extension of his eclectic musical persona, traipsing a fine line between the margins of the most surreal recesses of electronic music, channeling elements of Drum n Bass, IDM, acid and electro through the extensive discography of the label.

While the bulk of Bjarki’s work appears predominantly in the album format, he hasn’t released an album since releasing three in one year in 2016 until Happy Earthday via !k7 in 2019. It’s a format Bjarki thrives in as an artist, with some abstract narrative coursing through each LP independent of the last, while there’s some sonic identity connecting the artist to the music. Happy Earthday contains all those erratic rhythms, elusive textures and alien sound design that has  followed the artist through his records, but on this latest it’s more likely to draw comparison to what’s happening on the bbbbbbb label than those first LPs he released. For the most part Happy Earthday tones down the excessive indulgences into a more palatable down-tempo/ambient style and it’s only “(.)_(.)” and “Salty Grautin” where the record ventures into the kind of frenzied sonic whirlwind that we’ve come to expect from anything that would appear on Bjarki’s more indulgent tracks.

“Happy Earthday” sees the Icelandic producer channel elements of Breakcore, IDM and Electro into a record that truly stands on its own in current electronic club music dialects. There’s no retrospective approach, but rather something wholly unique with a vision on the future. Swimming in abstract sonic landscapes, where electronic sources chirp and twitter in some artificial intelligent effort in mimicking the natural world, there is something completely surreal about Happy Earthday. There is something uneasy about anthropomorphic electronics at first, like those Boston Dynamics robots opening doors, but as the album progresses, languid pads and billowing atmospheres impose a calming influence over the entire record.  The alien squeaks, squawks and rumblings  explore the furthest reaches of Bjarki’s sonic palette thus far, without over extending that enigmatic appeal his music always manages to exert over his audience. Delicate melodic touches and inviting textures, entice the audience a close to Bjarki’s work, but like the records that came before it shows yet another side to the artists creativity and completely disarms any preconceived notions about his music and his work.