The quartet sometimes describe their music as "Machine Rock and Roll", and indeed the band's sound veers between pulsing floor-fillers and headbanging anthems, served with a mixture of Kraftwerk-inspired electronics, Daft Punk-like robot voices, and hard rock beats. The almost surreal melodies seem to be derived equally from medieval Gregorian chant, American cartoons and Russian Romantic music of the 19th century.
In the music of Apparat Organ Quartet every note is hand-played, with not a sequencer or computer in sight. The bandmembers play keyboards from their collection of jurassic analog machinery, including Russian synthesizers and customized home organs, Italian transistor organs from the 60's, malfunctioning Hammonds, old school vocoders and various circuit-bent Casios and Portasounds.
Their passion for out-moded musical machines and ancient communication technologies is also reflected in their collaboration with TF3IRA, a trio of ham radio enthusiasts. This performance, documented on the Kitchen Motors CD "Motorlab 2", featured an enormous electric sound sculpture involving shortwave receivers and morse code transmissions mixed in with the organ quartet's ethereal soundscapes.
Neil Strauss described the band's origins in The New York Times: "Like most Icelandic bands, the band's roots are in the experimental. A musician named Jóhann Jóhannsson formed the band simply because he wanted to hear what the Steve Reich Minimalist composition Four Organs sounded like live. Slowly, however, his Minimalist cover band developed its own sound. The concept was to have four organs, one drummer and a load of antiquated electronics -- home organs and castoffs that we pick up in the junkyard, Mr. Jóhannsson said."
The band was originally conceived as a collaborative project curated by Kitchen Motors, a record label and art collective founded by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hilmar Jensson and Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir.
Apparat Organ Quartet's released their self-titled debut album in 2002 after 3 years in the making. According to the quartet's members the process was prolonged since they had to discover by themselves how to record an organ quartet. "We couldn't just go to the record-store and ask for an organ quartet album. We had to invent the genre." The album cover art features oil paintings of the band as Playmo characters by the artist Markús Þór Andrésson.
In March 2010, Apparat Organ Quartet announced that they had begun recording their second album, entitled Pólýfónía. The album was released on December 9th, 2010 a full eight years after their debut release. Pólýfónía was greeted with rave reviews in the Icelandic press and the album designer Siggi Eggertson received the Icelandic Music Award for best design.
In 2011, the band signed a deal with Crunchy Frog to release the album worldwide.
Apparat Organ Quartet was invited to numerous festivals and venues in Europe before even releasing an album, including the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, London's ICA, Batofar in Paris, as well as performing in St. Petersburg and Helsinki. The band has also played at New York's Central Park Summer Stage, Denmark's Spot Festival, Stockholm's Kulturhuset as well as Holland's Lowlands and the Belgian Pukkelpop festival.
Apparat Organ Quartet's members (and former members) and their extra curricular activities include:
Arnar Geir Ómarsson, who has worked with Magga Stina, HAM, Lhooq and many others artists.
Hörður Bragason, who was working as an organist in Reykjavik's largest church congregation for a decade.
Jóhann Jóhannsson, who has had a solo carrier as a genre-crossing composer.
Músikvatur, who has collaborated with múm and has released several solo singles.
Úlfur Eldjárn, who has composed a lot of music for theatre and TV series.
Þorvaldur Gröndal, who has been the drummer of electronic-pop/rock band Trabant and The Funerals
Apparat Organ Quartet is also part of a collective of Reykjavik-based musicians that includes members of Sigur Rós, múm, Kanada, Trabant, Funerals, Slowblow and others. A number of these acts share members, and have collaborated on other projects.