ÓLAFUR ARNALDS:Variations Of Static (Erased Tapes)


Posted on May 21st 2008 12:41 am

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Ólafur Arnalds: Variations Of Static

Variations Of Static
Erased Tapes 2008
05 Tracks. 21mins39secs
Format: CD/10″/Digital

Hailing from the small Icelandic town of Mosfellbær, situated just outside of Reykjavik, young classical musician Ólafur Arnalds released his debut album, Eulogy For Evolution, at the end of 2007. His approach shares with that of compatriot Jóhann Jóhannsson a taste for combining often melancholic piano or string compositions with found sounds and electronics and, more surprisingly, occasional elements of indie rock.

Variations Of Static, Arnalds’s second offering, was originally made available as a limited tour edition. Recorded at home, with Arnalds on the piano and a string quartet providing the accompaniment, these compositions feature more prominent electronics, while a recurring computerised voice appears at regular interval, evoking a similar use on Jóhann Jóhannsson’s 2002 album Englabörn. The music on this EP evolves extremely slowly, as if caught in iced seas, reinforcing the moving tone of Arnalds’s previous release. The minimal settings upon which each track is rooted give this collection a particular desolate touch, but, very much as was the case on Eulogy, beneath the emotionally charged surface often lie some wonderfully furtive uplifting moments which surface when least expected.

Opening piece Fok is focused entirely on a short recurring piano line which progressively gets surrounded by delicate string work, giving it added weight as the strings become more prominent, and later, an increasingly complex and vivid beat slides underneath, casting a strangely grave shadow over the piece. The following piece, Vid Vorum Smá… rises from the sonic debris of its predecessor and looped computer voice phrases. Once these have dissipated, a lone piano carves an autumnal theme reminiscent of Max Richter’s Blue Notebook album, but then, it is the string quartet which assumes the primary role on Haust, with the piano only drifting away in the background. This shift, which also informs, to a lesser extant, closing piece Himininn Er Ad Hrynja, En Stjörnurnar Fara Pér Vel, shows for a moment the cinematic overtones that Arnalds displayed on his debut album. On the latter composition, the balance between the orchestral section and Arnalds’s piano is progressively levelled out as the piece progresses. In between, Lokadu Augunum casts another veil of melancholy over this record, with piano and strings circling around each other and casting a distinctive shadow over the additional sonic layers which appear for a moment toward the end.

There is, in Ólafur Arnalds’s work, a certain elegance and fluidity that is very much his own. The five compositions presented here are all versatile and hint at rich soundscapes without ever actually reaching them, leaving an element of want and expectation hanging over this work. This conscious restraint is very much the strength of Arnalds’s work and makes this release a beautiful companion to Eulogy For Evolution. One can only wish Arnalds’s talent gets the recognition it deserves sooner rather than later.


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Filed in Singles/EPs | Tags: ,
Comments (5)

5 Responses to “ÓLAFUR ARNALDS:Variations Of Static (Erased Tapes)”

  1. gobbelsagainon 21 May 2008 at 1:50 pm

    reminds me of Andreas Vollenweider…

  2. themilkmanon 22 May 2008 at 7:37 am

    yeah, like Champagne reminds me of cheap wine!

  3. Smileon 04 Jun 2008 at 1:49 pm

    just seen Olafur’s playing the Barbican on 20 Jun – i’ll definitely be heading down :-)

  4. themilkmanon 04 Jun 2008 at 8:57 pm

    He is indeed. I am very much looking forward to this. The Barbican is a very fascinating venue, and I think it should be a great concert.

  5. […] giving his compositions extra relief. This formula was also applied on his follow up mini album, Variations Of Static, published the following year, and earlier this year, Arnalds showcased another side of his work […]