Ólafur Arnalds

...And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness

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They must be putting something in the water over there in Iceland that makes musicians work in unexpected ways. Their biggest pop and rock exports -- Björk and Sigúr Ros, respectively -- have borne very little relation to what the rest of the world thinks of as pop and rock, so why should their most promising young neo-classical composer be any different? At an age when most young men are still trying to decide between grad school and the night shift at Denny's, Olafur Arnalds has already made a name for himself as a musical maverick who skirts the edges of the classical, rock, electronic, and avant-garde worlds with enthusiastic ease, a Nico Muhly with a higher tolerance for cold weather, if you will. On his second full-length release, Arnalds moves further away from electronics to embrace a more acoustically oriented approach centered on piano and strings. Electronics do play a supporting role -- they're simply used to enhance the atmosphere here and there, but in the main, Arnalds is creating 21st century chamber music here, as the piano makes simple, elegant statements whose harmonic possibilities are further fleshed out by the strings. And Arnalds may be a modernist in terms of pushing stylistic boundaries, but he still has some old-school, downright romantic notions about melodic movement -- you won't find any polytonality or serial music among these tracks. Arnalds prefers instead to repurpose old-school harmonic conventions in a new context, offering the listener a readily accessible emotional connection but still breaking new ground. And on the few strategic spots in the album where Arnalds drops in drums and/or electric guitar and repetitive motifs, the effect is not dissimilar to the headier moments of the aforementioned Sigúr Ros, or perhaps early-‘70s Pink Floyd at their most ethereal, showing the rock crowd that they too have a point of entry into this music.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick