Subviola is an electro-acoustic experimental noise project by Icelandic sound artist Hilmar Bjarnason and American transmedia artist David W. Halsell. With their initial recording, No Defects, the duo manipulated field recordings from urban and rural spaces of the American Midwest. Railroad locomotives, country meadows, industrial spaces, and Appalachian folk musicians are transformed into protracted and convolving sounds punctuated by disjointed rhythms and vocalizations.
This tense and disorienting work reflects the artists’ experiences while living in the economically depressed post-industrial “rust belt” and evokes the widespread disillusion in the myths of American industrial and social history. The title comes from the most common of radio messages in the automated system of status reports of railroad lines.
No Defects was recorded 2007 in Pittsburgh, PA, remastered in 2017, and formally released on Flat Field Records in 2018.
The collaboration formed in 2005 in Pittsburgh, PA and performed one (now legendary) show at the historic Kresge Theater. After re-forming in 2015 after a ten-year hiatus, the duo work remotely from Reykjavík and Seattle.
Subviola combines field recordings, synthesis, and acoustic instrumentation in their compositions. Like a long-distance chess game, the duo send tracks and ideas back and forth, combining both a compositional intentionality and an openness to improvisation. The resulting works are cinematic soundscapes that veer between brutish industrial noise to whelming washes of aural alchemy.