"Foreigners think we're fighting or cursing," once muttered Heimir Bjorgulfsson, the former spokesman for the Icelandic expatriated ensemble Stilluppsteypa. Taken out of context from an interview with Seymour Glass in Bananafish where Bjorgulfsson was explaining the perception of the Icelandic language, it's an apt description for the inner workings of Stilluppsteypa. This is not to say that this ensemble -- currently the duo of Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson and Helgi Thorsson, as Bjorgulfsson departed in early 2002 to pursue other activities -- is without an intelligence. Quite the contrary, Stilluppsteypa are incredibly clever in the chimerical realm located between punk antagonism, liguistic anomalies, obtuse electronica, and utopian experimentalism, all the while managing to offer an absurd agenda intent on blurring the border between the understandable and the ununderstandable. The most recent Stilluppsteypa albums and the solo projects from Sigmarsson and Bjorgulfsson may not sound like Icelandic verbal abuse or fisticuffs, but the logic of disconnection and dis-ease that Stilluppsteypa currently employ has remained a rare constant with their fluctuating aesthetic proclivities.

The publicly announced history of Stilluppsteypa is marred with inconsistencies, in part due to their disdain for absolute truths, but also for their unquenchable thirst for alcohol, which they've admitted to leaving some black holes in their collective past.

Nevertheless a story must be told.

Stilluppsteypa was formed around Christmas of 1991 while the members waited for a bus and suffering through the cold Icelandic winter. The name itself has something to do with "illegal home butchering," done by farmers in opposition to the strict regulations the Icelandic government places upon all agricultural and butchering practices. In recent interviews, Stilluppsteypa have distanced themselves from a meaning to their name, often avoiding a translation altogether and providing a distinct mystery to their name. Maybe they were in fact fighting and cursing on that rock in the Northern Atlantic.

None of the members of Stilluppsteypa began with much musical training. Helgi and Heimir may have had some piano lessons at a very early age, but those were quickly deprogrammed as all of the members of the band had enrolled in various, unknown punk bands in the late '80s and early '90s. Thier punk as fuck attitude certainly inspired their name as an invocation of repulsion from the rest of Reykjavik and still runs through their work, albeit with a far more subtle application. Car Dirty With Jam on a Busy Street andTaxi To Tijuana -- while still not widely heard -- are the earliest recordings of Stilluppsteypa to emigrate from Iceland. Both from 1995, these horrific mutations of garage-punk, shredding the Venture's expressive guitar tremolo with cancerous pulsations from analogue electronic knob twaddle, horror film dialogue, and the dumbest rhythm pre-sets on their drum machines. These recordings had more than a few passing resemblances to the art-damaged languages being uttered at the same time in Japan by the Boredoms, Melt-Banana, and the Space Streakings. While punk invoked a DIY attitude for Stilluppsteypa and provided a vehicle to proclaim allegiances with disparate signifiers of brokenness and disconnection, the traditional aesthetics of punk (guitars, bass, drums, and seductive / evocative singer) didn't sit well with Stilluppsteypa.

A major turning point in Stilluppsteypa's artistic career came at the discovery of The Hafler Trio's extensive body of psychoacoustic / techgnostic research, and developing an ongoing friendship with The Hafler Trio's main protagonist Andrew McKenzie, who had relocated to Iceland in the mid-'90s. In an interview with Rob Young for The Wire, Bjorgulfsson admits, "Andrew McKenzie is quite responsible for the direction we took, his work had a huge impact on us, and he introduced the work of different artists and labels to us like Nurse With Wound, John Duncan, Organum, :zoviet * france:, Staalplaat, Touch, etc. etc." Aside from simply opening Stilluppsteypa to an aesthetic rarely heard within Iceland, McKenzie prodded the group to further investigate their manifestations of cultural misfirings with a digital landscape. While taking a somewhat divergent path, Stilluppsteypa asks what it means to be 'intelligent.' Where The Hafler Trio offers bafflingly contradictory anti-narratives of sound as a means to impart knowlegde, Stilluppsteypa developed a sly, vaguely subversive language that poked fun a the intellectual (or better stated pseudo-intellectual) pursuits of many of their contemporary laptop chin-strokers. Bjorgulfsson once adequately summed it up with the simple statement: "there is nothing silly about being silly..."

Encouraged by McKenzie and educated at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Netherlands in 1997, where the three studied sonology, Stilluppsteypa has refined their sound through a steady series of albums that often twist the ubiquitous languages of microhouse and glitch modulations into uncanny reflections and eerie orchestrations. Yes, albums like Has (or Has Not) Happened and Stories Part Fire are as clinically precise as anything by Oval, Pan Sonic, or Alva Noto; but there is a blackhumour at work, exposing very slight electronic cracks and semiotic mismatches. Within the music, it almost goes unnoticed and is shaped mostly by the slippages between monotonous hums, chugging digital pinpricks, and disembodied drones. Stilluppsteypa often relies on the linguistic and visual contextualizations to further their intent with titles often appearing as word-puzzles or as strange punchlines (i.e. "Most Of The Holiday Spent In The Bathroom" or "Wheel Who Doesn't Do Anything"). Then there's the cover art to Stories Part Five which found the three Icelanders in faux-superhero gear complete with capes and a pair of golden boxing shorts with a brash red bolt of lightning down the seam. Stilluppsteypa have, thus, poised themselves in a unique place as the carnivalesque hucksters of the electro-glitch era.

(approximated by Jim Haynes in 2002)