ÓLAFUR ARNALDS: … And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness (Erased Tapes)


Posted on Jun 9th 2010 11:27 pm

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Ólafur Arnalds: ... And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness

… And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness
Erased Tapes 2010
09 Tracks. 43mins28secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Norman Records: CD | LP iTunes: DLD

Financial collapse and clouds of volcanic ash have replaced quirky experimental pop music as Iceland’s main exports in recent months, so it is good to see that, beside all this, life carries on as normal and this island, caught between the European and North American tectonic plates in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean, still delivers more than its fair share of progressive music.

One of the country’s most recent envoys is twenty-three year old composer and pianist Ólafur Arnalds who, in the space of one album and three mini-albums has started to make more than a splash on the international music scene. His last couple of projects have taken him in entirely different directions. On one hand, he set himself the challenge to compose, record and publish a track per day for a whole week, using Twitter as main vehicle to promote the work, and inviting listeners to post their own photos on a Flickr account as illustration to the music. Found Songs was later released on London’s ever excellent Erased Tapes. On the other, Arnalds was commissioned the score for British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1909, which was also released on Erased Tapes at the end of last year.

With his second album, … And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness, Arnalds returns to some of his favourite themes, casting beautifully evocative melodies and orchestrations against discreet electronics and occasional pop/rock dashes. For this record, Arnalds surrounded himself with a number of musicians and worked closely with musician, composer, film director, author and clothes designer Barði Jóhannsson, best known for his work as Bang Gang, on a number of tracks. The cross-over approach that tinted Arnalds’s Eulogy For Evolution and Variations Of Static especially is emphasised here once again as he ventures in rock/pop terrains on a number of occasions, but while this worked surprisingly well on his debut, it fails to have quite the same impact here. Tunglið for instance, opens with a superbly evocative solo piano sequence, which is progressively wrapped up in layers of strings.  But as the melody swells and the layers of orchestration become denser, the straight brushes of a conventional drum/bass rock formation somewhat deflate the mood in the second half of the piece. This is also true of Gleypa Okkur or Hægt, Kemur Ljósið later, although the drums feel more integrated into the fabric of these, most predominantly on the former, and appear less invasive as a result.

This is not the sole focal point of the record however, and elsewhere Arnalds demonstrates once again particularly impressive qualities as a composer and arranger. Opening pieces Þú Ert Sólin and Þú Ert Jörðin are perfectly nuanced, the string sections providing a delicate counterpoint to the piano, while later, the intimate ambience that is fashioned by the subtle relations between instruments, particularly on the minimal Kjurrt and Undan Hulu is totally absorbing. Arnalds’s deep understanding of chamber music, and his attentive approach to moods and undertones is extremely palpable here, and denote a more mature vision.

At only twenty-three, Ólafur Arnalds is an extremely confident composer whose wide vision sets his work truly apart. The classical/rock equation might not entirely work here, but it is intrinsically part of his approach to music and gives it a very effective contemporary touch. With this record, Arnalds continues to establish himself as one of the most exciting composers of his generation.


Ólafur Arnalds | Ólafur Arnalds (MySpace) | Erased Tapes
Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Norman Records: CD | LP iTunes: DLD

Ólafur Arnalds

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