Iceland’s Best Dance Tracks, According To GusGus
The vibe of a scene is more or less defined by what was thought to be the coolest stuff happening at the time it started. The Icelandic electronic scene came to life during the years 1991 – 1993 and still bears that mark. What was essentially going on at that time was a bunch of break-oriented stuff.
It all started with the breakbeat hardcore (rave) style in ’90 and ’91 with the early pioneers such as Ajax kickstarting the Icelandic rave culture. One year later, when more bedroom producers entered the wagon, this wave of intellectualism that emitted from the chill-out rooms of Europe was the thing — something more ambient, abstract, and strange. Early Aphex Twin and Autechre, along with The Black Dog guys, were significant influences in the scene in ‘93.
As there were no actual clubs in Iceland back then, there was no outlet for Icelandic electronic music after the illegal parties of the early ’90s came to an end. But there were rumors, traveling as whispers, of some home-based parties where things were more spaced out. The Rosenberg club was an exception, where a couple of producers played from ’93 to ’95 and produced some releases. I was part of that crowd along with Maggi Lego — known as T-World — with one release on Underwater, but after ‘95, everything was very underground except for drum & bass. A lot of the guys from back in the day are still producing and releasing music. Most still fall under ambient and intellectual, but some, along with the younger batch of producers, started creating more club-oriented records at the start of the millennium, as parties started demanding a more global sound — a direct result of improved communications and tourism.
Check out the new GusGus remix EP, Remixes Are More Flexible Pt. 2
GusGus – Mallflowers [Pineapple Records]
After joining GusGus in ’95, I took a break from producing club tracks and began creating more instrumental cuts that were aimed for the dancefloor. This was circa 2003-2006 when we were working on Forever (2007). “Mallflower” was loved by many progressive DJs of the world, such as Sasha, when it was released in 2006. It somehow emits that sexy, creative feel that surrounded the band in those years. I actually produced this track to take a break from working on the album, but Maggi Lego ultimately decided to include it on the official tracklist.
Bjarki – I Wanna Go Bang [Trip]
Bjarki is the most exciting name in Icelandic electronic music these days. He won the award for “Best Icelandic Electronic Album” for his album, Happy Earthday last year. Although his music leans more towards the “intelligent breaks style” rooted in Icelandic electronic culture, when he DJs, it’s all about techno — some of his collaborations prove that. “I Wanna Go Bang” is the biggest track he’s ever put out, a serious techno banger.
Exos – Pulp [Figure]
Exos is the other big name in Icelandic techno. He is less into ambient brakes and is definitely one of the best Icelandic DJs. He’s been around since the birth of Icelandic dance music. His set at Secret Solstice a few years back blew my mind and is to date one of the best DJ gigs I’ve ever witnessed.
Megaman – This is Serious [Houserecordings (Plasmapool)]
This is one of those secret bombs from Reykjavik’s home-cooking studios. Atli Thor as Megaman with an electro house rocker. Years later, it still has the same effect.
Oculus – Creator Master [Open Concept Recordings]
A good friend since my GusGus touring days, Oculus (AKA Fridfinnur) has been one of Icelandic’s most sought after electronic talents. He has mixed and produced several albums, both for others and as a part of the band. Oculus is his solo project that put him on the radar, though. “Creator Master” is one of his earlier tracks. I can smell the new-wave influences. Lovely!
GusGus – Degeneration [Pineapple Records]
“Degeneration” was originally meant to be the title track of the album that ultimately was called Forever, but the plan was for the album to be called Degeneration. It encompassed the degenerative feeling I wanted to project into these works of sleaze and torn nylons, perfect for the kind of back-alley clubs I imagined to exist somewhere. Other tracks from this album, from that same party, are the tracks “Porn” and “Lust.” These are the unofficial neon signs of the nightlife.
Intr0beatz – Sweet Sensation [Dark Energy Recordings]
Shifting to something completely different, the backbone of the sweet, deep house feel that is rooted in some of the trendsetters that rule the bar-infested nightlife of Reykjavik, can best be described by the work off Arsaell Thor (AKA Intr0beatz). He came into the scene at the top of the millennium. Although deep house had already begun to spread in the ’90s via a handful of DJs, the sound was barely erupting. Thus, Intr0beatz can be seen as a pioneer of the Icelandic deep house sound.
ILO – Restart, Pt. 2 [True Romance Records]
A former mate from T-World, Maggi Lego, is a massive fan of this artist. Feeding him that sweet deep house groove, Olafur Breidfjord (AKA ILO), created this track, which is perfect for that “this evening is gonna be nice” vibe after you just curbed off at the bar.
Ohm & Octal Industries – Hyggeligt [Rawax]
I just had to add this track from Ohm and Octal Industries into this mix, as it perfectly fuses that ambient breaks vibe that defined the roots of Icelandic electronic music back in the early ’90s. Perfect for the final stretch after the non-veterans have left the club.
Hólmar – The Swirming Mairmish [Get Physical]
This is a recent track from my friend Hólmar, who has been around since the ’90s but has since relocated to the US. I’ve seen him far too little since he left Iceland! Although he’s known best for his work under Thugfucker, this track stays true to his original name.
Buspin Jieber – The Dream [Raftonar]
The perfect final track when it is way too late, leading into mid-morning, the crowd is thin, and you just need that ideal final track while you hit on the bartender.