Emerging at the confluence of art and club music with SGurvin

“The music scene, the club and the art scene are merging.” A few years back, this was a predominant theme in club music. Labels like Stroboscopic Artefacts headed by artists like Lucy were attempting to redefine the gallery as club space, channeling ideas from conceptual artists like Marcel Duchamp through a couple of grooveboxes in a warehouse space offering a backdrop like one Rauschenberg’s white canvas’. It was pure art for art’s sake and it felt like we were on the cusp of inaugurating Techno as a legitimate artform in the stuffy world of academic art practises. There was a spirited push to achieve this, but then as if the entire Techno scene realised there would be no economic advantage in pursuing these ideas, it just vanished into thin air.  

The art-world were curious, but unaccepting while the club scene turned their back on these musicians in favour of a return to the immediacy of the corporeal and hedonistic, leaving these artists and and their works stranded in a kind of elusive no-man’s land, where they’ve joined previous attempts from the world of Jazz, post-Punk, Noise, and Ambient music genres. Abandoned by most and admired by few, these attempts go largely unrecognised by the great art institutions, forever doomed to drift haplessly on the river styx between “highbrow intellectuals” and “lowbrow nonconformist” in a state of artistic purgatory, only to be appreciated years beyond their creation. On the rare occasions artists like La Monte Young and Ryuichi Sakamoto managed to wade through the bog to otherside as bonafide “artists”, but for most it’s a self-deprecating struggle against the tide with a singular motivation propelling them forward into the obscure. 

It’s here in this realm that SGurvin first emerged as an artistic vehicle for Sigurd Gurvin, but with a more fluid adaptation of the concepts above, he has seemed to emerge on the other side with EPs for Full Pupp and remixes for the likes of SYNK, in an effort towards a more accessible idea of this music as a consumerist artform, informed by ideologies like: “resistance to the institutions getting too much power over the art scene and the definition of the art scene.”  Sigurd sees “club culture as a modern folk tradition” with the emphasis on the folk aspects as some kind of social glue in the experience of the creative process that like most post-modernist before him can redefine “the black box as a way of thinking about the white cube;” in this particular case the club space as a gallery space. 

In the period between 2017 – 2019 he and Langagora (Henrik Langgård) realised the vision as EUFORISK, functioning as a club night series and a collective where the focus had been to “loosen up this white gallery idea of art, and see it more as a social sculpture… move the aesthetic approach to something that’s happening.” Today those ideas from the defunkt club nights has been channelled into a label of the same name operating as an “archive”, and as something that Sigurd can continue to carry with him in everything he approaches, from making music to performing a live-hybrid set and even releasing records for Full Pupp.  

Growing up in Moss, these ideas manifested early with the young Sigurd in the world of Hip Hop where he found a “form of expression for a culture of peace, love and unity” in the dusty beats of this black American music. “Trying to connect different aesthetics to make a culture and a community” Hip Hop became an outlet for his creative identity at first. He found a “guru” in the Moss music icon Don Papa. The eccentric Don Papa has been a significant character in Norway’s music scene, influencing Sex Tags as well as creating his own music under aliases like Pablo Pækkis and MC Helbrød, and with outfits like Flammer Danse Band. Don Papa became a huge inspiration to the young Sigurd, who admired the Don for his originality and his ability to “flip things” in a perspective unique to that artist. Taking his musical cues from the Don, Sigurd started seeking out an expression in Hip Hop before eventually moving towards electronic music.

After many years in Hip Hop culture, however he felt “ it was getting too strict” and needed a new outlet for his creativity. “I was making too crazy beats for the rappers,” explains Sigurd, and the Hip Hop community by that stage was getting bogged down in “too many rules” for Sigurd. He sought out  “alternative ways of thinking about music” and after various forays into Jazz, Punk and Trip Hop, he eventually found a voice as SGurvin in the experimental realm of electronic music repurposed for the club. After completing his studies at the Art academy in Tromsø, Sigurd started to “develop a musical language” alongside working with visual art.” He spent five years refining these concepts and ideas, and when the time came, coinciding with a move to Oslo, it first took the form of an altruistic moniker, SGurvin and later as EUFORISK in collaboration with Langagora

EUFORISK started out in 2017 to “put our own work in context,” explains Sigurd. He and Langagora aimed to create a collective in order to “bounce some skills” off eachother “and learn from the creative process.” They ended up “making a culture around it” based on the ideas of euphoria where they’d be “creating and healing through a bigger body.” The limited run of events in middelalderparken in Oslo became more than just a club night, it became “a meeting point for people and a mashup of art expressions” according to its creator. Unfortunately, bureaucracy got in the way, and unable to use the venue they’d established after it was bought out by the city, the EUFORISK RAVE club concept died. 

“The project isn’t dead,” intercepts Sigurd… “we’re on level two, focusing on presentation of videoworks, interviews and VJ/DJ-mixes” he says with a wry chuckle. It was never just about the club concept, and since its inception it’s offered a platform for Sigurd to release music as SGurvin. Albums like Turn/Return followed, in which Sigurd would explore concepts as personal motivations through abstract sonic experiments. “I see concepts as the motivation,” says Sigurd. “I want people to get something out of it, but I need a personal motivation for my ideas, that’s linked to my life.” Turn/Return follows the story of a relative that went missing only to be found later in Berlin, but at the same time, it deals with Sigurd’s artistic identity as he comes to terms with his own metamorphosis during this period. The kafka-esque concept is delivered in strikingly brilliant music where atmosphere and melody abound in the spaces between the concrete rhythms. 

Beyond the concepts lie a musical curiosity however, and while Turn/Return dealt with these heavy ideas behind the music, the EPs that followed like “Trouble every day and Evolving Times aim to create brighter rooms, but in a fairly similar soundscape,” according to Sigurd. In some cases like his latest collaboration with Krass (Krister Kollstad) on Full Pupp Ekspress it abandons the visceral almost completely for the sake of the context: “On Subway Rails EP, we had an idea to make a vinyl release for the dance floor.“ The record which was first conceived in 2018 after Sigurd met Krister trying to “break into the DJ booth” at a EUFORISK event, didn’t quite make it onto the vinyl format as a digital release, but the context is still there as a club-based record. 

Rapid fire snares exchange patterns with wooly kicks and dreamy atmospheres in what Sigurd describes as a record that is trying to contribute to what he refers to as “Oslo Tekno.” It’s “something not just for the dance floors and not that hard,” but something that could be enjoyed beyond the club space. It’s this ethos he’s taken to his other work for Full Pupp including the the SGurvin EP and with more to come through the label in the near future, it seems like the idea is solidifying the sound of SGurvin around the Prins Thomas imprint. 

“I am inspired by relating to people, formats and ideas.” explains Sigurd about his differing approaches to music in an email after our conversation. “With EUFORISK, the focus was on developing style, putting our own work in context, learning from others, sharing knowledge and creating a culture for different art expressions that meet each other. With the Full Pupp releases, there are other frameworks and principles that apply, and this has also been a great inspiration for me.” Inspiration has come from working with Prins Thomas, something Sigurd purposefully sought out, and collaborating with artists like Krass and SYNK on original music, remixes and sometimes club events.

Underpinning all of this from the recorded works, the activities from EUFORISK and the live show is a simple desire for motivation. “If you’re curious about making something with this motivation,” he explains, “it’s often more interesting than if you’re trying to make just Techno.” In cases like Subway Rails it might fit neatly in the context of Techno, but without that motivation that sense of experimentation you find behind the music, often leads to some deeper cognitive layer. In some perfect post-modernist interpretation it can certainly be taken at face-value, but just beyond that lies an ideology derived from culture and context. It’s not Techno as obvious loop-based functionality, but  a heady confluence of art and music, for those ready to seek it out. At the same time all of that is completely immaterial in the context of representation. 

As he continues to move “in the direction of dance music” through his SGurvin project, especially with Full Pupp, this connection becomes more tenuous compared to something like Turn/Return or Trouble Every Day, but with an artist like Sigurd, it gets increasingly harder to separate the work from the person, and as you talk to him you realise, that spark of something innovative or different that might have drawn you to his music, is only fully realised in the context of the artist behind the work. Ostensibly it might be nothing more than Techno, but from the first sentence he spoke that desire to reconstitute the gallery in a club his work as SGurvin remains infallible in the context of his conceptual pursuits.