In April 2023, Artlist sent sound artist Kaśka Paluch and filmmaker Sjoerd Wess on a journey through the wild and diverse Icelandic landscape. Kaśka’s mission was to collect high-quality SFX, and Sjoerd captured footage for Artlist’s catalog. Watch the documentary and read on for the full story.
Sjoerd and Kaśka had only met once on Zoom before joining forces in Reykjavík and spent the best part of five days driving from one corner of Iceland to another, searching for the most mesmerizing sounds and scenes they could find. The result is a short film jam-packed with visuals so jaw-dropping they could be CGI, but as both creators stress – there’s just one main character, and her name is Iceland. Their short film also highlights Artlist’s method of capturing the highest quality SFX and footage for our library.
Sjoerd’s mission was to share the sheer commitment it takes for Kaśka to record her Icelandic sound effects for Artlist. Sjoerd lives in Haarlem, a city just outside Amsterdam, and Kaśka, originally from Poland, has been living in Reykjavík since 2016.
“I don’t usually comment on these things,” says Sjoerd, chatting over Zoom. “But the Dutch are super sarcastic, and Kaśka is very Dutch in that regard. So from the first moment, it was easy.”
Before the trip, Sjoerd wrote a list of sites he’d like to visit but was disappointed to find them jam-packed with tourists upon arrival. “Justin Bieber stood on this little patch of land in Iceland,” Sjoerd says. “And so many people stood there they had to fence it off.”
Luckily, Kaśka had some tricks up her sleeve. “I could see how disappointed Sjoerd was to see all the tourists,” she says. “And I could see how much he respected Iceland – so I decided to let him in on some of our secrets.”
They traveled to a spot that only locals knew about, with scenery even more impressive than the tourist hotspots. And, of course, it’s much easier to record the sounds of nature when no one else is around.
“We were so sick of the tourists,” Sjoerd says. “And then we went to these abandoned farms where the sound and images were way prettier. So I want to convey in this film that the tourist stuff is nice, but Iceland has so much more to offer.”
For Kaśka, seeing how deeply Sjoerd connected with Iceland meant the world to her. But for now, they’ll keep the locations secret to protect them from tourism. “These places are for the explorers,” Kaśka says. “The ones who are brave enough to find something for themselves instead of just following the crowd.”
Kaśka’s Icelandic journey started in 2016 when she decided to move to Reykjavík from Poland. She’d been an avid hiker in Poland and loved to record the soundscapes of her country. “I wanted to capture the sounds that surrounded me, like the birds singing in the mountains or the sound of the streams,” she says. Although Kaśka has many skills, being a teacher is one of the most important parts of her life and work. Everything she creates as a sound and music producer is driven by the philosophy of teaching people to be present and listen.
The natural beauty of Iceland blew Kaśka away, so she began working as a tour guide. One day she met a visually impaired woman who came on the tour by herself. After a while, Kaśka summoned up the courage to ask why she’d come to Iceland if she can’t see anything. “There’s so much to experience here,” the woman replied. “Textures, sounds, smells, tastes. There’s so much more than just the views.”
That planted a seed in Kaśka’s mind to experience the beautiful landscapes through a sense other than her sight. Kaśka is a musicologist, musician, and music producer with a keen ear and passion for creating music. So she set out with her recording equipment and started to build her music project, Noise from Iceland. The project includes recordings and a sound map, where you can explore different areas in Iceland over a map and hear the unique audio from that region.
“When I started recording in Iceland, I had no idea anyone else would be interested in it,” Kaśka says. But then Artlist reached out to ask if she’d be interested in working together, and her passion soon became much more than a hobby.
“I have no idea how they found me,” Kaśka laughs. “At first, I thought it was someone making fun of me, but I checked it out, and everything seemed legit.”
Kaśka loves the fact her soundscapes live on in other people’s videos, and living in Iceland means she’s never short of material or inspiration. There’s always a volcano exploding, a river overflowing, or a new fjord to explore.
Kaska’s Sounds of Iceland Collection
Authentic recordings of natural geothermal scenery
Listen to the full Sounds of Iceland SFX Collection
Sjoerd started shooting videos when he was 13 years old, as part of Haarlem’s skateboarding community. He loved it but didn’t consider a future in it. Then, four years ago, he left his full-time job at a surf camp, bought a camera, jumped on a flight to Peru, and started filming. It immediately felt right.
“I shot this funny video of a guy who worked as a volunteer at a dog shelter and put it on my YouTube channel,” he says. When he returned to the Netherlands, he worked as a production assistant, but his YouTube channel grew so quickly that he could soon sustain himself on filmmaking alone. That’s when Artlist got in touch.
“I became an affiliate for Artlist, and the more my channel grew, the more I could do with Artlist.” Says Sjoerd. “It happened really fast – in three and a half years, I went from having zero experience to working as a full-time filmmaker.”
His filmmaking has taken him around the world, but he instantly knew a trip to Iceland would be something special. “You cannot compare Iceland to anywhere else,” he says. “We have weird weather in Holland, but Iceland is another level. It’ll be sunny, and ten minutes later, you’re in a snowstorm.”
One day Kaśka and Sjoerd were standing on Sólheimajökull, a glacier in southern Iceland nestled between the volcanoes Katla and Eyjafjallajökull. It started snowing heavily, which worried Sjoerd – but he knew he needed to take the risk to get the shot he needed. “I flew my drone in the storm, my camera was completely soaked, my lens was frozen, my mic was jacked up – but the footage is sick,” he says.
For Kaśka, that unpredictability is what it’s all about. “The main character of all my projects is Iceland,” she says. “I’m not doing much – I’m just taking out the recorder, pressing the record button, and everything else Iceland does.”
But Kaśka is being modest, as many consider her work art. A few weeks ago, she recorded an erupting volcano. The surrounding moss had set alight, and there were wildfires everywhere she looked. She couldn’t get close because of the smoke, so she decided to improvise. “I recorded the sound of the burning moss, with the rumbling volcano in the distance,” she says. “So in this way, it was more than documenting – I framed the sounds, just like a photographer frames a setting.”
One thing Kaśka and Sjoerd share is a deep love and respect for Iceland. “The biggest thing I learned from this project was just being present,” Sjoerd says. “That experience of being closer to nature just by listening to it is something that I hope everyone can learn to enjoy in life.”
Kaśka looks delighted. “My job is done,” she says.
Sjoerd’s Sounds of Iceland Collection
View the full collection