Iceland's Ólafur Arnalds is giving away a brand new, newly composed and recorded song every day this week as part of his "Living room songs" project: livingroomsongs.olafurarnalds.com/
Artist: Ólafur Arnalds
It's a bit intimidating to write a review about a classical musician when you yourself are not classically trained. Without the tools to fully express why the mechanics of the music engages emotions like a sack of bricks (or your other favorite blunt object of choice), the writer is left feeling not unlike Mary Beth Hurt's character in "Interiors" -- all emotion with no proper outlet for expression. And while this handicap hasn't deterred me from spilling a good deal of (virtual) ink in praise of Ólafur Arnalds' work, it does make me acutely aware of my own shortcomings.
The second of a three-night residency at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, Arnalds and his freshly assembled string quartet took the stage requesting that the people cloistered at the back of the room gather around them. A large portion of the audience did just that, creating an atmosphere that was not unlike an elementary school reading circle. (Perhaps the cliché is true and everyone really is looking for intimacy in LA?)
With the majority of material culled from last year's standout album "...And they have escaped the weight of darkness" and 2009's "Found songs", Arnalds literally and figuratively had the audience at his feet -- mixing minimalist piano refrains with densely layered strings, and hand-trigged samples. The result was a series melancholic, chillingly beautiful soundscapes removed from both place and time.
The transformative music was punctuated by brief interludes, where Arnalds, despite musing that the audience probably enjoyed his music more than his speaking (Don't sell your oration skills too short dude!), carefully set up each piece with a small (and often humorous) insight into the process. Creating a track that's "not dumb enough" ("Ljósiđ") can cost you a payday and a spot in a bathtub commercial -- but it can result in a sweet and gently moving song. It doesn't take a tragedy to write a sad song -- unless one is willing to count a bumpy, overnight ride on Eastern European roads, paired with too many nightcaps, as such. It is, however, very difficult to write under the Los Angeles sun when one is used to a rainy Reykjavik spring. Despite the burden of good weather, Arnalds did debut a piano-heavy piece titled "Los Angeles 2" -- penned a mere 24 hours before. While not necessarily an homage to the city (as Arnalds himself admits, it's a second attempt named after the place he was writing), it was a distinct pleasure to get a glimpse of the creative process, even when left unable to fully articulate ones' awe.
- Laura Studarus
Under the Radar reviews Icelandic artist Ólafur Arnalds performing live in LA: http://www.undertheradarmag.com/reviews/olafur_arnalds_at_the_echoplex_los_angeles_ca/
Iceland Music Export on "Iceland: Beyond Sigur Rós", a new not-for-profit 30m documentary on the Icelandic music scene which is available for free streaming online: http://www.icelandmusic.is/News/1684/Iceland--Beyond-Sigur-Ros---New-Music-Documentary--/default.aspx
Featured artists include Ólafur Arnalds, Hafdis Huld, Mugison, Bloodgroup, For A Minor Reflection, Seabear and more plus a number of behind-the-scenes folks such as journalists and producers.
Icelandic artist Ólafur Arnalds did the score for the new Sam Levinson film "Another Happy Day" which just premiered at Sundance this past weekend. Preview a track here: http://soundcloud.com/olafur-arnalds/lynns-theme
Ólafur Arnalds takes Drowned in Sound on a restaurant tour of Reykjavík: http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4141296-%C3%B3lafur-arnalds-young-composers-guide-to-reykjav%C3%ADk-dining
PopMatters interviews Icelandic artist/composer Olafur Arnalds: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/127131-the-weight-of-lightness-an-interview-with-composer-olafur-arnalds/
Pitchfork reviews the new Junip EP "Rope and summit": http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14341-rope-and-summit-ep/
Also covered: Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds' "...And they have escaped the weight of darkness": http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14278-and-they-have-escaped-the-weight-of-darkness/
Halifax Collect has an interview and a brand new track from Icelandic instrumental act Miri: http://halifaxcollect.blogspot.com/2010/06/miri-exlusive-download-and-interview.html
Also posted thereabouts, an interview with Ólafur Arnalds about his video for "Hćgt, kemur ljósiđ": http://halifaxcollect.blogspot.com/2010/06/olafur-arnalds-talks-about-video-for.html
The Silent Ballet reviews the new Ólafur Arnalds album "...And they have escaped the weight of darkness": http://thesilentballet.com/dnn/Home/tabid/36/ctl/Details/mid/384/ItemID/3351/Default.aspx
Falling somewhere between the glacial soundscapes of Sigur Rós and cinematic musings of Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ólafur Arnalds creates small-scale, intimate creations meant for quiet contemplation. Not one to take the path of least resistance, and head straight for the obvious theme, Arnalds cleverly sculpts the nine mini-compositions of "...And they have escaped the weight of darkness" into understated gems, eschewing melodramatic excess and allowing them to slowly unravel over time. Opening with the barely there track "Ţú ert sólin" and continuing with "Ţú ert jörđinn", the first two songs act as a prelude to his dimly lit world, which finally explodes into fruition with "Tungliđ", a piano-driven piece that builds to dizzying string and percussion-filled heights. The album's start for all practical purposes, it's well worth the wait.
While a stunningly mature modern-classical outing, it's album centerpiece "Hćgt, kemur ljósiđ" that truly shows what Arnalds is truly capable of creating, and with any luck will act as a bridge to future work. Packed with an album's worth of emotional resonance, the track is a multi-movement gem, where Arnalds makes good on "...And they have escaped the weight of darkness"' promise, tenderly leading his listeners into a melancholy dawn.
- Laura Studarus
Icelandic artist Ólafur Arnalds will release his second album "...and they have escaped the weight of darkness" in North America on June 8 via .
Pitchfork reviews Icelandic artist Ólafur Arnalds' "Found songs": http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13808-found-songs/
The Silent Ballet reviews the Ólafur Arnalds album "Dyad 1909": http://thesilentballet.com/dnn/Home/tabid/36/ctl/Details/mid/384/ItemID/2950/Default.aspx