R.13 SERIES. ICELANDIC MYTHS AND SOUND OF THE AMAZON: THE INFLUENCES BEHIND EXOS NEW LP "INDIGO"
Perhaps Iceland is one of the wondrous and mysterious places in the world. This applies not only to majestic wonders of island nature but also to its musical landscape. According to Fact magazine, the icelandic electronic scene is experienced a renaissance for the last several years. And Arnvidur Snorrason, AKA Exos, is an artist who is doubtlessly playing an important role in this process. He started making music in his teens. And his very first “Green Beat” EP was released on the legendary Thule in 1997. From that time Exos released more than ten EP’s and three albums. He appeared on Mosaic, Delsin, трип, Figure and others respected labels. He also started his own imprints — X/OZ and Planet X, where you can find artists like OHM, Matrixxman, Gotshell, Bjarki and others.
The First of June Exos will release his fourth album “Indigo” on Figure. This is his first LP since 2001. To celebrate the launch of the joint project "R.13 Series" with Recorder.13, where we will publish records and conversations with artists close to Kyiv formation, Exos provided a fresh hour mix, and we asked some questions about the long-awaited release. Our interview with Exos may slightly open a story behind his exceptional project. But of course, it’s always better to listen to music.
We are very excited about your new album. I know it took you almost four years to finish “Indigo”. How has your approach to the production process changed over this time?
The production has changed in a good way, as I am much more in contact with my sound design now than I was before. I am more aware of the mixing and the mastering process. Back in the 90's, I didn’t think so much about those things in the past. I just recorded the tracks straight after I made them and then selected the best recording. But now I have all my projects saved so I can work on the projects again and again until I am happy with the outcome. The whole time making the album was around 6 years I think.
How is “Indigo” related to your previous LP “My Home is Sonic”?
Well I wanted to make some kind of an independent continuing of “My Home is Sonic”, not just to put together random tracks and call it an album. “My Home is Sonic” is about certain expressions. The music of that album was a reflection of my life and my way to heal myself from distractions of reality. So my best way to heal myself and being in the best shape emotionally and mentally is to make music. So when I made “My Home is Sonic” I was in a great balance with my state of mind. With "Indigo" I take those ideas even further as I see it. The name "Indigo" says it all, it's more about the spirit life. I called the first track on the album "Reincarnation" as if reprogramming myself in a new way. And also most of the tracks are references to certain things that I wanted to describe.
From time to time, I heard music from "My Home is Sonic" playing in clubs. And I think "Indigo" could sound at parties too, but both of those albums were made for home listening.
In an interview with Groove magazine you said that some tracks from the new album refer to certain places in Iceland. And what are those places? And why are they special for you?
In the track called “Sanitatem”, which is a word for healing, I describe the experience of recharging and getting the body connected in nature. The story of this particular track happens in the sea near one of the best black beaches in Iceland, Vík.
Another track, “Huldulækur”, tells the story of a walk along a small lake in a valley in southern Iceland. Walking to the lake and looking up to the mountains at the hill, hearing the voices coming from the cliffs and the ravine. Walking towards the sounds by following those hypnotic voices, by suddenly disappearing in another dimension. Their dimension. From those dimensions, it's not possible to return back to this reality. There are numerous myths of events like that in the Icelandic folk stories. When missing people were drawn into the other dimension into the cliffs by the “hidden people”.
The track "Reincarnation" tells about the great moment of death, which can be perceived as a kind of culmination — light is transformed into the afterlife. But this moment can also frighten those who are not ready for it.
And the sounds you will hear in "Quod Arcanum Leticia", I recorded in Amazonia. There is actually a story behind all the tracks.
Why you’ve decided to release the album on Figure Music, not on X/OZ or Planet X?
Planet X is strictly fast forward techno label with no exceptions. And even though the X/OZ label could have been a great musical fit, I think Figure is great exposure for this album. The thing I like about Figure is that you don't know what to expect really from their next release. There is a gathering of different artists that makes different sounds which is all connected in the end. I also had total freedom of the vision of the album which is an important factor of the artistic site.
You wrote, that there will be limited colored vinyl for first copies of the album. And I also read that the vinyl version of the album will be shorter than the digital version, just like it was with “My Home is Sonic”. Tell us more about this, please. What should we expect from release?
The first hundred copies will be with colored vinyl. The original idea was to have the vinyl-only a double pack and more tracks on the digital version, but Figure really wanted to make it a triple vinyl to have all the tracks there as well, so I was so happy with that.
It feels like in your own creative process (production and DJing also) you have a strong connection between past and present of the techno scene. Why is it so important for you?
Techno made its main impact in mid nineties. For me personally the techno got its unique signature as a genre in 1993 -1994. I am fully aware that techno was emerging from the late 80's but did not have a real effect until 1994. That year is the cornerstone. Dave Clarke, Joey Beltram and Damon Wild with Synewave, and then there was a label called Missile Records. Those are the directions. In 1995 Jeff Mills takes over. So if this structure and influence get lost and we loose track of the real sound of techno, then it dies again like in 2005-2008. So I am totally fine with trends, the trance trend, the rave trend and even this gabber hype. It's all good and amusing. As long as we keep the legacy and the source of the original sound of the golden age or the old school techno as it's called then all will be fine. And the genre will keep on running. One of the reasons why Blawan is considered a pioneer is because he got us back to this sound with a new special sound and mixed it together. So Never forget where we came from and if you have a passion for techno then it's important to understand this.
Your father, Snorri, AKA Octal, is a musician. You told RA, that he is a person who heavily encouraged you to start making music. And also he bought your first studio gear. Can you remember one of the most important lessons/advice you received from your father about music/artist's path?
He said that without practice then nothing will happen. And when I got into Djing, I was practicing all day every day. As I started making music in January 1996, which was very difficult, he helped me out to connect decks and the main mixer. But I managed to dive into it quickly. If I wasn't active enough in make music, he got disappointed. But as soon as I made a good track he was happy again.
I know you stuck in Vietnam without your gear. It must be not so easy to make a switch from a super busy schedule (studio work, all-weekend-long gigs, touring, international flights, leading a label routine, etc.) to this kind of “frozen moment”? How does it influence you and change your music plans for this year? And how is it going with your labels X/OZ and Planet X, can we expect new releases in the nearest future?
Well. I thought the virus was only going to be a short thing at first. I wasn't worried about it at all. I was in the middle of my Asia tour, just finished India, Myanmar, Singapore, and Bangkok and Vietnam and was about to do Seoul in South Korea. I had a 3-month tour, the album tour canceled. First the march gigs, then April and then the May, and rest of the summer. At first, I was really sad as the loss was big but at the same time, there were people getting sick and losing their lives. All of a sudden I got really creative and started finishing a lot of projects and had the change to work in some recordings that I haven't had ti e to work with as a lot of time and energy goes into the travel process. So that was a great thing. In April I was supposed to return to Colombia for a full tour schedule but that will be postponed until later. I am just enjoying the pause time at the moment until things get busy again and to be honest, I am enjoying it a lot to be relaxed and not having any worry about anything. I am at Phu Quoc Island in the south of Vietnam. A paradise island with white sand beaches and clear sea.
Next up on Planet X is the one and only Gotshell from Colombia with remixes from Takaaki Itoh and Setaoc Mass and then its an EP by myself with a Bjarki remix. On the X/OZ label, I have the best tracks of the deep dub legend OHM. Happy he gave me his very best tracks to use for the label. And the next release after that is a remix double pack of my most well know EP "Q-Box" from the past.
What is the first thing you wanna do when you come back to Iceland?
I will hug my mother and my sisters. And take my mother's dog out for a great run in the local city park. Then drive to the national park of Iceland. My favorite place called Þingvellir, the best place to get the Icelandic energy. As they say in Wikipedia: "The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. To its south lies Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland." And then I might take a bath in the snow. Even though it's summer.