- Icelandic electronic music probably wouldn't be the same without Sigurbjörn Þorgrímsson, AKA Biogen. Though he's far from a household name, he founded one of the country's defining dance labels, Thule Records, and was an endless supporter of electronic music and of fellow producers in his country. All that work helping others meant that he never got that much shine himself. þorgrímsson's discography is wide-ranging—ambient, IDM, electro and techno all seemed to come naturally to him. After using one of his tracks for a compilation and picking two for her fabric CD, Nina Kraviz has compiled a retrospective that properly portrays Þorgrímsson as the madcap trailblazer he was before he died suddenly in 2011.
Halogen Continues collects rare or previously unreleased tracks that show the extremes of Biogen's catalogue: sublime ambient and jumpy uptempo. There's a vintage tint to some of the album's more chaotic IDM moments, though it's striking how contemporary some of this stuff sounds. "Lag 8," one of several 160 BPM tracks, would fit into today's crossover drum & bass sphere with its drumfunk percussion and cosmic synths. The equally fast and spacey "Borealis" would easily fit on a modern electro label like Shipwrec or Central Processing Unit.
Þorgrímsson made dense, hectic jams that are easy to wrap your head around. The aptly-named "160 Techno" approaches gabber with its brutal acid lead, but it's surprisingly smooth. The same goes for "303 Ambient" (which is not so aptly titled), the track that most resembles Aphex Twin with haywire drum & bass rhythms and more ruthless squelching. It's in "303 Ambient" that you can hear the future generation of Icelandic producers, particularly þorgrímsson's Trip label-mate Bjarki, who mashes up genres (and tempos) just as gleefully.
But the crown jewels of Halogen Continues are its ambient tracks, extended moments of reflection that recline gracefully between their more frenzied counterparts. Þorgrímsson's style of ambient is simple but profound. Listen to the way he slowly notches up the drama on "Bliss," or the way "Autofloat" swims in a sea of church organs, where the layers of sound are impossible to separate. His ambient tracks have as much personality as those with overwhelming drum flurries.
Halogen Continues sounds more like an old-school electronica album than a hodge-podge compilation. And while it overlooks Þorgrímsson's dub techno output, it works perfectly as it is, putting þorgrímsson comfortably in the context of Kraviz's label.
"I thought that if artists would attend each other's shows, they would be inspired by each other," Þorgrímsson said of the Weirdcore club night and Icelandic artist showcase that he started a couple of years before he died. "[I] hoped eventually we could stumble upon an Icelandic 'sound' that we could market abroad." Though it might have come a few years later than expected, Trip has given a truly international platform to that scene, highlighting artists such as Bjarki and Exos. They likely have Þorgrímsson to thank.
01. Irrelevant Information
02. Lag 38
05. Lag 7
06. Lag 24
07. 160 Techno
08. Lag 9
10. Lag 8
11. Forever Is Never Again
12. 303 Ambient
13. Halogen Continues