Posted on Sep 2nd 2009 12:59 am
Erased Tapes 2009
07 Tracks. 20mins26secs
In the last year, Twitter has become the hottest social network phenomenon around, and it was only a matter of time before someone used its format as part of a specific project. This someone is Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds who, in the space of seven days last April, composed and recorded seven original tracks, which were then made available, one at a time, on a special page on the Erased Tapes website, for free. Each day, the public was invited to post pictures on Flickr that they felt related to the day’s track. Some of these have now been compiled in a booklet accompanying this remastered version, now made available as a limited edition CD and 10” mini album.
Born in 1987 in Mosfellsbær, western Iceland, Ólafur Arnalds spent his formative years honing his 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 lines and discreet electronics, with a string quartet 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 with Kiasmos, a project for which he swapped delicate orchestral forms for minimal techno.
With Found Songs, Arnalds returns to the graceful forms of Eulogy For Evolution, bringing once again his compositions to life, at times on his own at the piano, at others accompanied by friends. While he worked from existing sketches and ideas, the seven tracks presented here were all fully developed and produced in one day each, yet, despite the imposed constraints, there is an overwhelming sense of calm and poetry, tainted with cinematic melancholy, running through the whole record. The exquisite piano motifs of Erla’s Waltz, Romance, Ljósið or Lost Song and swelling string work of Allt Varð Hljótt are reminiscent of Max Richter’s wonderfully evocative The Blue Notebooks, but here, Arnalds focus for the most part on pure instrumentation, only bringing an occasional dusting of electronics on the latter two pieces. The emotional landscape of these pieces is harrowingly dense and overwhelming. It is as if each note, suspended in mid-air like fine droplets, threatened to evaporate at any time, putting the fragile balance of these pieces at risk. On Raein, the scope of Arnalds’s music becomes more ambitious, as the piano is surrounded with layered strings which slowly build up over the first half, then progressively fade away during the second, adding rich tones to his autumnal melodies. Equally, on Faun, Arnalds plays on the textures of the piece’s components, in turn bringing piano and strings to the front.
There is very little of the pressure that working on this project surely put on Ólafur Arnalds transpiring in Found Songs. While these seven short pieces were assembled in just a few hours, there is a great sense of peace and unity here, which is undoubtedly a testament of Arnalds’ impressive musicianship. He is currently recording his second album proper, but this superb collection is much more than a stop-gap between major releases. It is a major piece of work in its own right, and deserves to be recognised as nothing less.
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