Pitch Music & Arts Festival is  merely days away now, and we’re getting pretty pumped for it. The festival, which will take place under the watchful gaze of the picturesque Grampians National Park is full of unmissable acts, and from the teases the festival have been posting on Facebook, it seems like the stage designs are going to be something to behold.

One of the most exciting calling cards of the festival is the Icelandic electronica duo Kiasmos, made up of classical composer/pianist Ólafur Arnalds and producer Janus Rasmussen. As well as playing at the Victorian festival, Kiasmos will be performing additional select dates all across the country as well. The duo craft ambient electronic dance music, which incorporates the driving rhythms of techno, but reorganised with carefully constructed musical arrangements, adding vast swathes of beauty to the affair. Perhaps this is why their music has resonated with audiences to such an extent – they manage to make something you can dance to, or just sit back and immerse yourself in. This delicate balance gives them a sound that few other electronic acts possess.

We were lucky enough to have a chat with Janus, about the project and their upcoming tour around Australia. “It’s been two years since we were in Australia last. We didn’t do Sydney last time. We did Melbourne and Adelaide and Perth, and then we went into the outback and did this festival called Wave Rock Weekender. So, we went quite far around the country. I hadn’t been to Australia before that tour, and so when we come next week, it’ll be my second time in the country.”

Iceland, from where Janus hails, couldn’t be further separated from Australia from culture to weather and everything in between. “It’s a bit strange, but it’s also nice. Australia is the exact opposite to Iceland, in how it looks and feels. The food in Australia is so fresh. I’m so looking forward to the food.” If you’ve ever been to Iceland and heard the music of Kiasmos, it is hard not to draw parallels. A Nordic island nation, Iceland is defined by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. It is also home to the northern lights, and bright iridum flares. It is a land of sweeping beauty, but it can also be quite cold and dreary. Each of these traits, the awe-inspiring beauty contrasted with the cold darkness, can be heard across music by Kiasmos. “We’re from Iceland, so we don’t really know what it is like to be anything else, or to be from anywhere else. I think the nature of Iceland sneaks into our music without us really realising it.”

When Ólafur and Janus met for the first time, they swiftly created a bond based on a mutual appreciation of the techno music that was starting to crop up at the time, a bond which would then spawn the inception of Kiasmos. “I was touring with my old band called Bloodgroup. We were doing a tour around Iceland and needed a sound technician. Olafur was working as a sound engineer at the time, so we brought him along. In the tour van we just really got to know each other, and discovered that we were really into this techno that was going on in 2007. After the tour we kept meting up, making techno, drinking gin and tonic and getting in the hot tub.” The pair jumping into a hot tub together as they work may sound a bit strange, but it is actually quite a common practice where they’re from. “In Iceland, because of geothermal heat and energy, hot water is so cheap. So you just drill a hole in the ground, and it comes out. Everybody has hot tubs outside, because it is so cheap to fill them up with hot water. Ólafur’s old apartment when we first started Kiasmos had a hot tub right outside. So we would write music, and then hop in there, and go back to make more music.”

The music that the two men produce together is so unique and eclectic, and they seem to gel so well as artists. Janus told us a bit about what it is like to work with Ólafur in a musical context. “He’s super talented and a very organised guy. That’s one of his biggest strengths, how organised and focused he is when we work together. We get work done extremely fast.” Rather than coming in to a writing or recording session with set ideas, the two friends prefer to take an improvisational approach. “When we’re making music, we just meet up in the studio and start with a completely new page, just seeing what happens. When we start an idea, we just jam out. I’ll make some kind of a beat, and Ólafur goes to the piano for a while and sees if he can come up with something, and then we might record it and loop it, maybe put some synths on top. It’s kind of like making a cake.”

While on tour in Australia, Kiasmos will not only perform at Pitch Music & Arts Festival, but they will also be doing a string of smaller performances around the country. Janus doesn’t have a preference between the two performance types – “they’re just such different scenarios. Smaller clubs are lovely sometimes, it’s really in your face and you get to see people right in front of you. But at festivals you kind of lose that because the stages get bigger, and the crowd is so far away. But it’s just a different kind of energy. I enjoy both, they’re just very different.” Though it may seem like one of the best jobs in the world to be able to party at festivals in so many different countries, Kiasmos don’t actually get to experience every festival they play at – “We’re always on tour when we’re doing festivals, so we do a new festival every night. It’s very strange for us in a way to just walk into a new festival every day. We try to explore some of them, but we don’t do it as often as people might think.”

When we asked Janus about the sort of music that is happening in Iceland at the moment, we were surprised to hear that it isn’t awash with ambient electronica like what Kiasmos make – it turns out, trap hip hop has gained a lot of popularity. “Hip hop is everything here right now. Trap is really popular – pretty much whatever is going on in the U.S.A is adapted in Iceland. It’s huge, the kids love it. But it’s all in Icelandic. I think that’s the main reason it is so popular here, because it’s in our language. It works great.” 

Kiasmos have been able to perform all over the world, and their music has been widely critically acclaimed, and adored by fans. But this wasn’t something they always anticipated. “We never expected the project to take off like it has. Its gotten to the point now that so much energy and time is being spent in Kiasmos. I’m almost only doing Kiasmos stuff these days. That’s pretty crazy when that wasn’t the initial plan.” 

Check out the dates for Kiasmos‘s upcoming tour below. Janus told us “I’m just looking forward to seeing everybody, and being in the sun together in Australia. It’ll be a different reality to what I’m experiencing here in Iceland right now. It’s so snowy.” 

Tuesday 7th March: Days presents Kiasmos 
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney (Tix here)

Wednesday 8th March: Pitch Music & Arts presents Kiasmos
Howler, Melbourne 
(Tix here)

Friday 10th March: Auditree, TBC and Novel presents Kiasmos
The Flying Cock, Brisbane (Tix here)

Saturday 11th March: Days Like This Festival
Randwick Racecourse, Sydney (Tix here)

Sunday 12th March: Pitch Music & Arts Festival
Mafeking, Victoria 
(Tix here)