Review: Kiasmos, St John at Hackney.

Once afforded both time and space, it quickly becomes considerably easier to differentiate between a good, and a great record. Whether the peaks of the pitch-black grooves have lost all but all of their edge or your cerebrum anticipates the opening strains of the proceeding track seconds, or even minutes before the previous one has even elapsed, telltale signs of the so-called ‘great record’ are remarkably easy to tell. And Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen’s eponymous Kiasmos album, released last year via the forever reliable Erased Tapes label, has since proven itself to be a truly great record; the kind that even the least needy of needles yearns for as a Hackney ne’er-do-well might intravenous apparatus.

It’s compelling, pulsating, and pretty much impeccable stuff; the sort that doesn’t surface all too often nowadays: a meeting of Arnalds’ neo-classical background with altogether more contemporary, propulsive electronics, that the pair’s show within the utterly breathtaking confines of St John at Hackney should form part of Convergence’s 2015 proceedings ensures the nature of their genre-welding, wending aural glories fits perfectly with the name of this particularly impressive series…

By dint of this convergence of traditionally disparate, when not incongruous disciplines, and in terms of the music’s general addictability (on top of its timbres and tones), Kiasmos can be readily likened to Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory’s sensational Elements of Light; another record that saw Nordic melancholia hauled to the fore, albeit in a slightly more tacit context. But tonight is not, and was probably never destined to be, some form of communal mope-a-thon; instead, it’s as invigorating – or perhaps rather that should be reinvigorating – as Arnalds’ pumping of pure ardor into his every pump of a tightly clenched fist.

As hollers of “Broadchurch!” abate, and the show begins, aptly ecclesiastical new material (for which many an iPhone is of course unsheathed) combines with such unabashed belters as Burnt and Thrown, Arnalds rebooting the checking-of-email cliché so commonly associated with electronic artists as he flails one arm wildly, and fiddles with an iPad with the other throughout. The latter, Thrown, threatens to bring the house – and that of the Lord, no less – down, so long as the all-pervasive patches of damp overhead fail to do so first, as glassy shards and mirrored fragments of music à la those of The Bell Laboratory overwhelm the room; Swayed has more in common with Fabric than moral fibre; while Lit sounds all the more effervescent when unleashed from the cans that have now become said track’s natural habitat.

Granted, there are instances in which the atmosphere drops off, not least when the duo descend into more drop-hefty house stuff, with the sound intermittently both muddy and muddled. Those on the handshake amphetamines embrace like brothers in alarmingly commonplace abuse, vocally extolling the sorts of momentarily humdrum beats quite likely to be rocking Bloc. concurrently, thus showing certain stylistic convergences to be rather more successful than others…

Nonetheless, to revert to an earlier inference, there is a strange discombobulation – albeit a glorious one – to be accredited to the duo’s reordering the recording. And it’s perhaps as the antithesis of this, combined with the emotive gravitas of this particular brace, that as Held segues unassumingly into Looped, Arnalds and Rasmussen are both seen and heard to be at their very best. And at this juncture, another convergence makes itself manifest: that although this is an electronic performance first and foremost, elements lend themselves more to a studied recital than the rapturous show this one can become at times. Never is this more so than during a fucking euphoric, thrusting Bent, although on this kind of evidence, Kiasmos can now seemingly reform, rather than deform, the way in which we digest these kinds of stylistic crossovers live.