Beatmaker Muted (Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson) recently released his second album, Empire, a low-tempo experimental piece that blends classic ambience with glitchy beats and textured soundscapes.
Inspired by nature, science and technology, Empire is a hallucinatory journey into the artist’s private world, following similar themes to those of his first album, Muted World, which first hit the scene in 2015, but demonstrating a stronger knowledge of the craft. Rather than standing alone, Empire’s tracks blend into one another, creating a collection that is more genre-driven, mature and concise than its predecessor.
Empire’s cover is bright and alluring, offering a psychedelic insight into the private world and tastes of Kjartansson, as well as providing some insight into the otherworldly realm we’re about to discover. The cover was designed by DJ Flugvél og Geimskip (DJ Airplane and Spaceship), otherwise known as Steinunn Harðardóttir, a respected and longstanding fixture on the Icelandic music scene.
Muted is originally from Egilsstaðir, though now currently based in Tübingen, Germany. Despite the change in locale, his soundscape is entirely reflective of Iceland; a downtempo ambience that conjures images of walking through the surreal landscapes, with synths that strike like howling winds, and steady rattling drums that mimic rock falls and volcanic rumblings.
The rain samples in “Peaceful Sleep,” the second track on the album, add to this image particularly, setting Empire up from the get-go as a piece of art that attempts to transform the sounds of nature into a layered, digital soundscape. Empire’s final track, “Society” echoes the sounds of urban life, providing an unsettling bookend to an album so steeped in naturally ambient design.
In true Icelandic fashion, Empire is very much a collaborative effort. Contributing to Muted’s lo-fi instrumentals are Icelandic lyrics from Fanney Ósk Þórisdóttir, who sings lead on the track “Núna ft. FEY,” Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir’s voice on “Waiting for You” and, naturally, DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip singing on “Undraveröld”. “Peaceful Sleep” is the only track on Empire with lyrics in English.
Fans of such electronic musicians as Múm or French beatmaker Onra will find this album particularly appealing, given that it manages to transcend what’s expected of the genre; instrumentals weave in alongside vocal performances as smoothly as English language tracks turn to Icelandic ones, creating a gentle, river-like listening effect that keeps you immersed from the first track to the tenth.
Empire has been released across all digital platforms, as well as offering 150 limited edition “glowing-lava” 12″ vinyl pressings. Purchase a vinyl copy of the album from Muted directly, and follow him on social media here.