Musicians of the Nordic regions are experts at crafting majestic, otherworldly electropop. There’s Aurora’s The Gods We Can Touch, Sigrid’s How to Let Go, Björk’s recent Fossora – and now, we can add Quantic Dot’s Random Causalities to the list of fantastic Nordic soundscapes.
Okay, technically speaking, Quantum Dot is from Luxembourg, not Iceland or Sweden. They started in 2014 as a duo in Brussels, with Lionel Jeusette and Patrick Ribeiro experimenting with instruments and reworking them into digital industrial sounds. But on their latest EP, they’ve employed the Iceland-born When ‘Airy Met Fairy singer-songwriter Thorrun Egilsdottir to lend her voice to their chilly and melancholic new tracks.
This is an electronica release that’s not for the club so much as it is for the coffee house. In fact, it might be best for an introspective nighttime drive through the city streets. Its tracks feature themes of obsession, violence, grief, heartbreak, and death. Some tracks are deceptively chill, only to reveal themselves to be about absolutely brutal topics. Take “Breaking Bones,” which initially appears to be a fairly carefree and inoffensive piece…until you realize that it’s a song about a woman beating a man as revenge for her broken heart.
Meanwhile, “Riverbed” references World War II and tells the story of a woman venturing into an “ominous forest” to find her lost husband. Hopeful tenacity gives way to depressing reality once she realizes that he’s never coming back. Its production is a bit quieter, letting the stripped down electronica serve as a haunting backdrop for Egilsdottir’s dreamy voice.
“Okay” also opts for understated instrumentals, starting with a gentle piano before incorporating sparse plucks of strings and a gentle thudding beat. “That’s okay, because everybody turns to dust,” Eggilsdottir croons. It’s dark and vulnerable, yet strangely uplifting. It’s this kind of uncanny tonal dissonance that really makes this EP stand out amongst other more standard electropop releases.
The EP as a whole opts for a “less is more” approach, and avoids drowning its potent emotions in overproduction. There’s a great deal of restraint in the production, actually, which allows the vocals to take the foreground. This subtlety also allows the bolder production choices to really shine, like the thudding and escalating beat on “Killer Love.”
Egilsdottir’s vocals really transform the duo’s sound – compare this EP to their debut 2016 release Deschooling Society, which has a more traditionally pop thrust to it. On Random Causalities, their music has a more sublime and darker tone. The sultry, eerie vocals complement Quantum Dot’s uniquely haunting and hypnotizing production very well, and together the vocals, production, and lyrics tell a subtly disturbing story.
This is definitely an interesting new direction for the musicians. Whether or not Egilsdottir will continue to work with Quantum Dot on future releases is unclear, but even if she doesn’t, Random Causalities shows that Jeuselle and Ribeiro know exactly how to best complement whichever vocalist they’re working with. It will be interesting to see which other talented musicians they may collaborate with.