With a new album created through an experimental 'messing-around' with different electronic and ambient sounds in his live shows, Icelandic composer/producer, Tonik Ensemble (real name: Anton Kaldal Ágústsson), has made a moody yet uplifting, beat-reliant record. It is only right, then, that the 8-track collection, Snapshots, gains an extra coating of exultation when brought back to the live arena at Ágústsson's gigs. It's perfect for the club setting but works equally well played loud on your speakers.

Here Ágústsson talks to The 405 about influences, cooking sounds and gin.

To the uninitiated, what is Tonik Ensemble all about?

It is a project of electronic music, where the electronic sounds clash with live instruments. We have been doing that as a fully live experience but also, at times, as pre-recorded electronics accompanied by live vocals. The project has been described as pseudo-techno, which I think works.

How did the project start out?

It was initially a solo project for many, many years. But the new album is like a new chapter which has been in the works since 2010, I guess. It started out because I wanted to branch out, experiment with vocals, with the human element of the voice. And that ended up in us trying new elements for the live performance, against the mechanical stuff which is what the electronic music essentially is.

The name Tonik Ensemble: you're not a gin drinker by any chance, are you?

My family is. That is essentially where it comes from. But also, you know, my name is Anton Kaldal so it's getting a bit creative with elements from those two names, splashing them together.

Are there any worthy gins distilled in Iceland?

Actually, yes, although there are also some terrible ones.

It's taken almost 5 years to create this album. Is that because you're a perfectionist?

Partly that, yes. But also being a musician is not a full-time job for me.

Ok, so how else do you while the time?

I am a graphic designer. Everyone in Iceland does lots of different things. My living, my making a living, comes from graphic design, although this project has slowly become more and more time consuming but that is fun. With regard to the making of the album - it wasn't until about two years ago that it became clear that the material we were working on was a batch for the album. Prior to that I wanted to make songs out of context and experiment. This then created the palette for this album.

How did that palette evolve during this period?The sound evolved very consciously. When you are working on music it's like cooking. You have a song and you are dancing on the line between electronic and jazz and you choose where you place yourself on that spectrum. One synth line here takes it over to the electronic realm, while a saxophone layer might dip it over to the jazz realm. So, yeah, it's like cooking, a little salt here and a little pepper there.

And you end up with your own recipe.

Yes, exactly.

How does it then work when you bring it back to the stage?

That is actually an ongoing process. I feel like as the time goes by there comes a point where you are forced to evolve. In terms of this specific album, a lot of it was a live thing which we wanted to then capture in the studio. I made a demo, played it live with a guy on the saxophone who did some awesome shit - it was really awesome - and that was something I then wanted to capture and bring into the studio to try and do something similar. That back-and-forth thing was nice but now that the album is done it's all about representing those songs in a new context, in terms of where the project is going now. The fun thing is that I am not quite sure where it's going. It's happening on a gig-by-gig basis. Testing stuff and trying out new things. Some things work and some won't but I like that. Every gig is something new.

If I cruelly gave you only one word with which to describe a Tonik Ensemble show, what would it be?

It would be 'dreamy' or 'atmospheric'. No, actually, I'm going to go with 'hypnotic'.

Are there any of your contemporaries whose music you are particularly into at the moment?

Absolutely. Floating Points, who has been a huge influence on this record. You can see how his influence goes back to Trentemøller and the Deep House vibes. I would also say that Jon Hopkins has been an influence since his Insides album and Andy Stott - I really like how he reinvents himself every other day, almost [laughs].

You are already established in Iceland but what's it like playing to audiences outside your home territory?

I love playing to new ears. Playing in Iceland... well, electronic music is still a niche thing there. Everything becomes a micro-scene, a micro-cosmos, so it's not necessarily a big scene that would be into the music. But I like getting a vibe from people who are not necessarily familiar with the music and are open to new things.


Tonik Ensemble's Snapshots is out now on Atomnation.