Stilluppsteypa & TV Pow
We Are Everyone in the Room
2001 Erstwhile CD

Track Listing:
1. Michigan impossible (13.41); recorded at The Detroit Contemporary on 3 November 2000
2. For starters we have nothing conclusive (17.18); recorded at Tonic, New York on 30 October 2000
3. Where's your asian girlfriend (04.07); recorded at Deadtech, Chicago on 5 November 2000
4. International starving artists (09.26); recorded as track 3
5. This place looks like Flint or double ass shot (you guys can pick, we like double ass shot) (04.16); recorded at Speak in Tongues, Cleveland on 4 November 2000

Stilluppsteypa [Heimir Björgúlfsson; Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson; Helgi Thorsson], powerbooks and minidisc players
TV Pow [Todd A. Carter; Brent Gutzeit; Michael Hartman], laptops, CDs, and electronic instruments.

Press Release:

Stilluppsteypa and TV Pow are two of the most prominent laptop trios in the world of experimental music. Originally hailing from Iceland, Stilluppsteypa was formed in 1992, and the current lineup of Heimir Björgúlfsson, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson, and Helgi Thorsson has been together since 1995. They've released work on such prestigious labels as Ritornell, meme, and their own imprint, but We Are Everyone In The Room is their first improv record. Based in Chicago, TV Pow (Todd Carter, Brent Gutzeit and Michael Hartman) was founded in 1995, and has performed with such prominent musicians as Otomo Yoshihide, Erik M, Taku Sugimoto and John Butcher. Gutzeit and Hartman also run the influential labels BoxMedia and Gentle Giant, respectively, where most previous TV Pow material has appeared.

In late October 2000, Stilluppsteypa and TV Pow embarked on a week-long tour of the US. The two groups, while familiar with each other's output, had never worked together before, but did so for part or all of each of these performances. We Are Everyone In The Room was compiled from these shows, including their first collaboration ever at Tonic in NYC. Stilluppsteypa and TV Pow combine a thorough knowledge and wide range of microscopic sounds with an uncanny feel for their deployment within an improv context.

The captivating cover art was created by Leif Elggren, a Swedish conceptual artist and co-founder of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland.



There is, I sense, a growing body of opinion that is beginning to question whether or not improvised music is now at risk from the same staleness which undoubtedly beset the jazz music that this largely European movement first reacted against over 30 years ago. The music has certainly developed its own language and structures (antithetical, but true) and I hear fewer and fewer surprises coming from within the movement. It does seem apparent however that a saviour, that of new blood and new technology, is rapidly advancing over the horizon. Not only do we get Derek Bailey's many genre-hopping situational challenges, Evan Parker's growing list of electro-acoustic collaborations, and Keith Rowe's work with the cream of Viennese and Japanese electronic music artists, we also get new post-AMM supergroup poire z (Günter Müller with turntablist Erik M and Voice Crack), Kaffe Matthews, and in the US the Sonic Youth axis (embracing the precocious talents of Jim O'Rourke and many key figures from New York's Downtown scene). This is a time of transition and mutation for the genre, and with recordings like the one below, I'm starting to think that things can rarely have been so exciting.
Stilluppsteypa have been active in experimental electronic music for almost ten years now, releasing a string of fine recordings on obscure labels in every corner of the globe. Their work on Ritornell and Meme is some of the finest music that the genre has to offer. This meeting with US laptop trio TV Pow culls material from a weeklong tour of the States, and is distinguished as the Icelandic trios first ever improv disc. If the CD's title is any guide, audiences can't have been large, though the best music often does go unheard. Sound (or noise) is the starting point, and with it are built long slowly developing and utterly beguiling soundscapes with a cool lustrous sheen. Stilluppsteypa's uncommonly beautiful signature sound (I refuse to use iceberg or glacier metaphors) is all over this fine disc, and in TV Pow they have found sympathetic allies. The Americans throw in some spiky and potentially disruptive moments, a kind of earthly interference which challenges but ultimately compliments Stilluppsteypa's exquisite cyber-sculpting. As with much of Erstwhile's commendable output, there is a tendency towards digital silence and microscopic sound, so fans of more demonstrative music may not be satisfied. To my ears though, this is an instant classic which charts some of the newest frontiers in improvised music. - Fred Grand

All Music Guide

Two improvising laptop trios, Stilluppsteypa hailing from Iceland and Chicago's TV Pow, met for the first time in the fall of 2000 and embarked on a week-long tour, captured in part on this recording. As in most successful examples of this genre, the musicians mesh into a whole wherein individual accomplishments are impossible to quantify. The range of sounds and depth of detail produced by this sextet are remarkable, from the quietest clicks and rattles to deeply sonorous hums and ratchetings, all serving to mold a palpable sound field ripe for contemplation. Certain tracks, like "International Starving Artists," have an almost soundtrack-like feel (one imagines it as accompaniment for a film by Tarkovsky), creating a striking sense of place and stasis as well as foreboding. Listeners wondering what can be achieved with "mere" laptop computers would be well advised to hear recordings like this one, where not only is the sonic landscape vast but the expressiveness and creativity dwarf that of many an avant-garde album on "traditional" instruments. Highly recommended. - Brian Olewnick

The Wire

We Are Everyone In The Room is a collection of material recorded during the US tour in the fall of 2000 by the Powerbook trios Stilluppsteypa (Icelandic, but currently resident in The Netherlands and Germany) and TV Pow (of Chicago). Though they had never performed together before, the set surprises with the restrained panache, mutual respect and aesthetic splendour the two groups manged to pull off. As both ensembles specialise in the recombination of sonic minutiae, neither was terribly interested in upstaging the other with macho displays of ego inflation, although Stilluppsteypa’s subtle, absurdist humour makes itself known from time to time. This album contains a broad spectrum of manipulated glitches—from glacially distant drones and suraface noise static to eerie, digitally microscopic shimmers and terse, Morse code arpeggiations-but is focused within an intelligent blueprint of studied tonal fluctuations and spartan, post-Techno rhythms. - Jim Haynes

The guitarist from Sonic Youth offers his two cents:

The more established the contemporary genre of noise music becomes, the more surprising it is to hear serious creative distinctions. TV Pow and Stilluppsteypa, two long standing outfits in a field known for there-and-gone participation, have proven to be both dedicated and utterly engaging in their furthering of this most modern of musics. Informed by all concepts of avant garde art music, they successfully transcend any manner of description. In other words this shit full on rocks. - Thurston Moore.

One Final Note

Anyone currently frustrated by the conventions and cliches of free improvisation might look no further than a whole raft of Erstwhile releases to get a sense of which musicians are attempting to develop new idioms and modes of expression. Whereas many of the label’s releases combine acoustic with electric instruments, this release is a purely electronic affair. It combines the Icelandic laptop group Stilluppsteypa – early mainstays of the still-young genre of post-AMM improvisation, whose works have been released on labels like Meme and Ritornell – with the American laptop trio TV Pow. The two combos toured together in the States last year and produced some truly compelling soundscapes.
Much of this music is unpredictable and defies conventional descriptions (both in the ways in which it exemplifies interaction between musicians and also in the aesthetic reactions it provokes), but there does seem to be a good deal of contrast between sharp, spiky sounds and cooler more abstract noises which seep into your listening environment. Musical events generally develop slowly, often beginning inaudibly, until you are suddenly aware of a new presence between your ears. These musicians also play with a good deal of insouciance, using samples of everything from voices in foreign languages (shades of Otomo Yoshihide in Ground Zero!) to bells to rinky-dink ‘60s keyboard sounds (dig “Michigan Impossible”). The individual components mesh quite seamlessly into a single shape; on tunes like “For Starters,” there is less linear development on which to focus a particular sense than an entity which envelops you as you listen. The sparsest tracks are “Asian Girlfriend” and “Starving Artists,” which insinuate their way into your listening space, slowly modulating their frequencies and reshaping themselves. Commendably, the six players all create with restraint and allow the music and the listening space to breath; each bleep, crackle, hiss, and hum carries greater weight owing to the artistic use of silence. A fascinating document of this new music.