Volruptus, a Space Alien from Reykjavík

[this article is adapted from a feature I wrote for Watch The Hype back in June, and thus features a few track selections from Volruptus at the end]

It’s 9pm on an April Saturday, but none of those inside the main room of London’s Printworks – an industrial hangar the size and shape of a skyscraper laid on its side – have any concept of time. They’ve just been subjected to one of Nina Kraviz’ darkest, most meditative sets, beginning with a beatless version of Future Sound Of London’s rave classic ‘Papua New Guinea’, and finishing with two consecutive tracks by Volruptus.

As the last track – the unreleased ‘Alien People’ – starts to unravel, with its nervously skittering drums, new age strings and pulsating acid core, a laser structure wavers in the dark air above their heads, slowly and fluidly changing in colour and shape, with the grace of a blue whale. The acid core fades away and is replaced by a paranoid, percussive synth line, and the laser structure accordingly loses its solidity, flashing in and out of existence. Kraviz’ game is clear here, she’s treating Printworks as a time machine rather than a dancefloor; her set began with the past, and now she is showing us the future in vivid detail. She’ll go on to release both tracks on her own трип label, in Volruptus’ Hessdalen ep, which nestles the gorgeously understated ‘We’ll Be Alright’ alongside the bangers, emulating a quick snooze onboard a lightspeed vehicle.

“Volruptus is a space alien that migrated from Reykjavík to the mainland of Europe. He has upcoming releases on both [Kraviz’ imprint] трип and [Bjarki’s imprint] bbbbbb.” This is all the official information we have on the Icelandic producer and live performer, aside from the self-titled debut album released last year on his own Sweaty Records, and a brief comment made on Resonance FM’s brilliant Dank Standards show, discussing his native, “isolated and weird” rave scene, characterised by secret parties in literal caves. His selections for Watch The Hype give a rare glimpse into this hidden world, and demonstrate why Nina Kraviz has described Iceland as a source of electronic inspiration rivalling Detroit.

[Since I wrote this Volruptus has lifted his no-interviews rule. My favourite soundbite is this one: ‘To me, naked landscapes, lava fields and mountains and intense wind can easily be transcribed into electronic music. Some places in Iceland look like a different planet or something.’ I also managed to catch him performing in his adopted home of Berlin as part of the Modular Gang, which you can read about here]

However, despite the mystery surrounding Volruptus online, anyone who has felt his music on the dancefloor will have an intimate understanding of his powers. In 1993 Jon Savage described Techno as perfect driving music because its ‘textural modulations are perfect for the constantly shifting perspectives offered by high-speed travel’, citing the works of forefathers Kraftwerk which literally map out motorway journeys. If Kraftwerk simulated car journeys, then Volruptus is an artist you should follow to experience space travel.

“Ice cold tune from the cosmic entity that is Kosmodod! Released last year on Sweaty Records. The track creeps up on you and takes you back to school! The progression of ‘Komets’ is right on target. It keeps a mysterious atmosphere throughout the track while badass hooks come and go.”

“OUMPH! I warn you, listening to this wicked track can cause wicked Psychosis. The wicked banger was released on a wicked cassette titled Disconnected this year, on the wicked icelandic label FALK. ThizOne has a wicked sound, and this track is really wicked, something about that wicked lead, it gives you wicked goosebumps in the wicked center of your wicked brain. I highly recomend listening to the wicked album and get completely disconnected!”