ÓLAFUR ARNALDS: Eulogy For Evolution (Erased Tapes)


Posted on Jan 21st 2008 12:59 am

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Ólafur Arnalds: Eulogy For Evolution

Eulogy For Evolution
Erased Tapes 2007
08 Tracks. 39mins36secs

Ólafur Arnalds is a young musician composer hailing from a small suburban town just outside of Reykjavik, who, besides drumming in two separate hardcore bands, focuses on modern classical music, although his work can also occasionally include elements of indie rock. Eulogy For Evolution is Arnalds’s debut album. Released on rising London-based imprint Erased Tapes, it was recorded over four months in early 2006 and features eight tracks, identified only by numbers, most of them led by melancholic piano lines and beautiful strings brushes, evoking the work of fellow countryman Jóhann Jóhannsson or composers Max Richter and Nico Muhly.

The album opens with the rich drapes of strings of 0040, but soon the clear sound of the piano draws a moody melodic theme and is, for a moment, isolated, until the strings slowly emerge again in the background to further highlight the romantic touches of the piano. This very much sets the tone for the rest of the album. 0048_0729 follows a similar path, but the character of the piece is more dramatic, evoking in its first part a stormy day by the sea. The melody becomes much more subdued and mournful in the middle section, and while the piece gains momentum again as the string quartet builds up strength for a moment, it is very much this impression that firmly remains. The delicate swathes and melancholic drift of 0952 and 1440 are amongst the most moving moments on this album. Once again, the dialogue between the single piano and the string section is arranged with grace and control, giving each part as much importance as the others and highlighting the leading melodies superbly to create a very rich and subtle sound.

1953 is a much more elaborate and ambitious composition. Although it begins with just a piano, strings which are, at first, gentle and distant, swell up and begin swirling faster and brighter around the main theme. The last three compositions take on a much more varied approach. While 3326 remains firmly in classical territory, it is led entirely by violinist Gr’eta Salome, and shows a much more theatrical and flamboyant side to Arnalds’s music. 3055 and 3704_3837 blur the boundaries between Arnalds’s various incarnations by introducing some elements of rock into them. On 3055, the melody slowly builds over the first half of the piece until it erupts in colourful ribbons of pianos, bass and drums. 3704_3837 turns to much rawer and abrasive sounds when saturated guitars and drums take over the piece, with strings occasionally piercing through the dark clouds, until they all digitally disintegrate over the blank tones of an organ, signalling the desolate end of the record.

With this impressive first album, Ólafur Arnalds is sure to gain a well deserved place amongst the new generation of classical composers that have been emerging in recent years. Eulogy For Evolution is a truly accomplished work which shows not only a good understanding of contemporary music forms, but also a great musical maturity.


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  1. […] compositional talent while playing the drums in various metal formations. In 2007, his debut album, Eulogy For Evolution, released on Erased Tapes, was drawing on classical influences, Arnalds providing delicate piano […]