"Bjarni Gunnarsson is an Icelandic musician hailing from Reykjavik who has primarily been active as part of electronic duo Einóma, a project he founded almost ten years ago with long term friend Steindór Grétar Kristinsson, and under which banner they have released a handful of albums and EPs on Vertical Form, Uni:form and Trachanik. His debut solo album, enigmatically entitled SAFN 2006-2009, is released in an extremely limited handmade CD edition on Belgian imprint Lamadameaveclechien
While its title could lead to think that this album is actually a collection of unreleased material presumably recorded between 2006 and 2009, it remains unclear whether this is indeed the case. Regardless, this is a very impressive record, and a very consistent one at that. In just seven tracks of stark minimal abstract electronic compositions, spread over nearly fifty minutes, Gunnarsson creates an incredibly complex and haunting sonic universe with very few equals around. His soundscapes are often broken and twisted, fragmented into vibrant sub-sections, themselves articulated around tiny sonic particles and miniature themes. Each of these tracks work on so many levels that it is difficult to actually grasp what is really going on in one seating, yet the way Gunnarsson presents all this is so extremely attractive that it doesn't actually matter much.
Working from sound sources which include acoustic instruments, percussive sounds, environmental noises, processed vocals and distorted electronics, Gunnarsson sets off on a journey which takes him deep into dark and rugged terrains, where nothing is exactly as it seems or really behaves as it should. This could be what the constant tectonic shifts deep beneath the Earth's crust actually sound like. Far from being a pastoral record, SAFN 2006-2009 is disturbing, extremely dense and tortured. It is also a haunting and hypnotic piece of work, which, once it has grabbed hold of its listener, never lets go. After a period of acclimation, how these tracks are actually assembled, or for which exact purpose, become totally irrelevant. Instead, the finer details and multitude of layers and sub-layers start to get more in focus, revealing the underlying cinematic aspect of Gunnarsson's work.
Right from the opening moments of Aftur, the listener is subjected to an assault of statics, threatening noises, unsightly electronics and thunderous percussive slabs. The mood never veers much from this, whether the soundscapes are temporarily softened with ghostly female vocals (Blindni), injected with recordings of wildlife and intricate noise formations (Dried Up), subjected to the regular pounding of a minimal beat (Time Out) or caught in a dense electrical storm (Fingrafjall). As the album progresses, it is as if Gunnarsson was constantly reiterating the nature of his sonic constructions, ensuring that each aspect of the record remains perfectly in sync with the rest for maximum impact.
It is with his solo album that Bjarni Gunnarsson impresses the most though. Its dark, mangled electronics and broken organic soundscapes are so utterly complex yet so fascinating, making this an outstanding record from beginning to end."
SAFN 2006-2009: 5/5
"... It's almost like Pierre Schaeffer's sound objects woke up and started walking around. I found myself selecting certain sounds as characters in the drama that unfolds over the course of the album. In particular, several tracks feature a stick percussion sound, something like a tom-tom or a taiko drum. It signals sectional changes in Aftur; steps out for an expressive, virtuosic closing to Blindi; initiates various sound events in Udrun and Dried Up; drives Time Out forward with a ghostly drum'n'bass. The interaction between the drum and various electronics opening Dried Up would bring to mind a human interaction, except that the skittering electronics sound so alien that I could not imagine any kind of instrumental origin.
The artist's brief statement on the label web site says that "the sound material varies from voices, violins and percussive sounds," so perhaps voices take on a character role as well. They are most prominent on Blindi, where a wordless female choir provides some of the most ethereal drones on the album before they are buried under the effects and lost in white noise. But this is the only track where voices are identifiable as such (except for a brief whisper in Dried Up). But another character is almost a process more than a sound, the transition from pitch to pulses made famous in Stockhausen's Kontakte. Gunnarsson uses this sonic splintering to great effect on several pieces, peeling elements from the drone in layers, possessing them to melodic dissipation, as new sounds emerge to replace them.
If voices, violins and percussive sounds are the source for all of the sounds on the album, the timbral variation is even more astounding. I suspect that he uses original designed sounds as well. The music reminds me also of Parmegiani, specifically in the way both artists create percussive sound objects and exploring their resonance. In any event, the album has seven tracks, all in the six-eight minute range. The CD is available in two limited editions, by itself, or with a different cover packaged with the Einóma EP. It deserves a wider distribution, and fans of new electroacoustic music should definitely check it out."
"Recently, someone told me that it's virtually impossible to get an ambient music album released, while on the other hand labels fall over each other in their enthousiasm to release a new noise title.
(Note we're talking about physical releases here, not about netlabels!) To be honest, I can't say I'm much of a noise addict. There's hardly any good opportunity to play it at home (without tough family protests), and I was not particularly enjoying most 'noise-for-noise sake' live performances I've seen.
But on this recent release, Bjarni Gunnarsson (born 1980, in Iceland as you can probably guess by his name), explores both ambient and noise music at the same time - crossing the borders with a stunning result.
Noise addicts may probably not even consider this 'real' noise, and ambient music devotees may not consider this 'real' ambient, but to me it is both. (Maybe sound art would be a better description).
Gunnarsson has previously released music on different labels as one half of the Einóma duo that released a bunch of maxis and two albums on the Vertical Form label. On Safn 2006-2009, he creates fascinating soundfields that are calm and unnerving at the same time. Though the sound is overtly electronic, the sources are organic: violins, percussion and voice (Blindni).
The album is packed in handmade organic tissue which presents a nice contrast to the music that is presented. Or maybe not so much of a contrast at all, because depending how you will listen, the sounds are also organic in a way. But in a quite unusual way."
"One of the first things I noticed about this record was the atmosphere he is able to create. The more ambient parts of these tracks sound very much like soundtracks and could definitely fit into a film, in terms of both sound and sound quality. Very interesting, moving stuff; in fact, while listening you will inevitably start to form moving images in your head.
A lot of times when I get "experimental" stuff from bands I've never heard of, it turns out to be mixed and engineered terribly (or, more accurately, not at all!). Thankfully, that flaw is not present here. The production on this is very good, the sounds are very "big" and "full" sounding, and there is a lot of space in the mixes, which lets the beautiful, haunting ambience leak through the stranger, more chaotic rhythmic sounds. This space also allows the ambience to expand to its full grandiosity.
A couple things about the sounds; one is that the choice of sounds in general is good. The drones and ambient textures are very beautiful. There are some background sound effects which meld with said ambience to help weave visionary auditory tapestries. Then there are other, um, "experimental" sounds; I say that because it's stuff you hear more in glitch/idm...like Alva Noto or Pleq. Those sounds are cool too; they're not just, say, static-bursts, but instead are generally interesting, evolving tones and clicks. Sometimes they match up with the ambient backdrop and sometimes they are on their own, clicky and whooshing in a void."
"Reykjavík’s born music composer and major in computer science has released his first solo effort on Belgium Lamadameaveclechien label. Bjarni Gunnarsson is best known as a member of the electronic duo Einóma with which released several LP’s and CD’s on labels such as Vertical Form, Thule, Spezial Material, among others.
"Safn 2006-2009" is a collection of improv pieces and live sets. It’s less beat-driven than Einóma and more focused on organic sounds but a cinematic feeling, haunting music for a dark film.
The synthetic sounds are made out of thick layers of abstract noises, echoes, kind of metal percussion and hints of 70’s cosmic music.
www.bjarni-gunnarsson.net and www.lamadameaveclechien.com"
Guillermo Escudero December 2010
"For the past two years MGBG (aka Marie Guilleray and Bjarni Gunnarsson) have kept themselves occupied with improvisations based around the integration of voices and electronics on their final six-pack production entitled Korabie.
While experimental may be the first term that comes to mind upon first spin (Einóma’s minimal effects are fully utilized), it’s the crafting of subtle interactions that stand out on this body of work. At times almost silent and alien in construction, voices — both treated and untreated — subliminally reveal themselves as loosened strands forming a web above the uneven electrical landscape. A warm hum of analog synths bend and contort in the most serene patterns as if naturally expelled from the center of the cosmos. Eerie at times, Korabie also blends microscopic audio slivers through a maze of hiccuped vocal stretches. Often crumpled at the edges, these pulses of articulated eruptions ebb and flow delivering soundtrack inspired layers that will either pull you into its disjointed textural hub or deter you from entering altogether. Either way, Korabie is a sublime collision between organic and inorganic ingredients meant for 3am listening."
"This is music created with the heart of high technology and the soul of a spirit world not usually seen with human eyes. The songs here create an emotional resonance that goes beyond just saying they make haunting music. Instead, they offer a fleeting glimpse of the other, the in-between. A presence that makes itself felt with every listen. Special things happen when the lights go dim. Welcome the darkness and let the magic begin. Highly Recommended."
"If their 2002 debut "Undir Feilnotum" announced Einoma's severe splendour with jaw-dropping audacity, then Milli Tonverka ("music that lies between" is the rough translation), goes one better, expanding the palette to include echoes of Coil's distopian grind here, Brian Eno's most exotic ambient tone poems there, though always retaining something uniquely,ineffably icelandic at its core. "Milli Tonverka" is an album of uncompromising highlights. There's the almost jaunty motorik undertow of "Khanin" for example, overlaid with gorgeous, alpine keyboards that suddenly cede to stark caverns of crunching, tactile electronics... this being a courageous second album that takes the sound leaps and bounds into new icy territory. Highly Recommended."
Boomkat review for Milli Tónverka.
"The clicks are often intense, like the upper regions of a Squarepusher breakdown, which combine with strategically deployed synths and waves of static to create barren, unpopulated synthesized volcanic soundscapes. Where Autechre achieve a kind of equally bleak sci-fi mathematically precise chaos, Einoma tap into something similar but far more primordial. Einoma pack a punch, and one that I'm getting addicted to."
Dot-alt magazine review
"Iceland's Einóma are one of the very few musicians who craft their audio sculptures with precision in every form of the word... Milli Tonverka stands alone as a highly evocative, inspirational album of deep electronic listening. Stretching through dark corridors of subliminally corrupt digital behavior, Einóma has, once again, planted the seeds for the next generation of constructive musical engineering."
"It may all sound cliched, but never has it sounded better. it's almost a summary of all that's happened in the genre. the mind-twisting sounds, the punkish attitude represented by glitch and distortion, the clever melodies that's present in all great techno.... there are times when something comes along to reaffirm everything you knew about the genre. this is one of those times; a classic and future benchmark."
Absorb.org review for Undir Feilnótum, album of the month.
"The compositions here are very visual in nature,withmulti-layered structures consistently shifting and skulking around. It simply sounds like nothing coming out of Reykjavik today. Within one of the legendary Icelandic Sagas, there is astory called Všlusp‡, which translates to something like "Sybill's Prophecy". In it, there is the tale of Ragnaršk; a time when the sun will become black, the earth will sink into total darkness and the Gods will die, the planet surrounded by an atmosphere of dark magic and hopeless tragedy. Einóma, it seems, have done their homework and have written the perfect soundtrack to the end of the world. You know what? It couldn't sound better.A fabulous and highly original work."
"Like a sequenced electrical storm this disc is a mutated breather from a number of like attempts on contemporary electronic pop music. Part science-fiction and part sensory, Einóma has outdone itself on its debut full-length, is that possible?"
Vital Weekly review
"Calling their sound "chilly", "frozen", "foreboding", and the like may be a gross oversimplification, but Einóma's music has an almost clinical precision. The cavernous yet crisp beats sometimes have the sound of calving icebergs, with combinations of faint, tinkling chimes, icy drones and electronic sighs suggesting frozen, wind-swept vistas populated with flickering entities not seen, but sensed...The two members of Einóma are in a early stage of their career, but on the strength of this release, they are already headed resolutely for the uncharted frontiers. The strength of the music of this CD is that it lets you just far enough in, and shows just enough of itself, that it becomes hard to ignore or dismiss. Fall asleep with this playing on the stereo, and unquiet dreams are almost guaranteed."