How can one say that Ólafur Arnalds' debut hits hard, even though that's true? The music is just sooooo fragile, delicate, quiet, and pretty, it shouldn't be talked about with overly strong images. Eulogy for Evolution is a continuous instrumental suite for piano and string quartet, with occasional extra instruments. Conceived as programmatic music, the suite depicts life from birth to death -- a large topic, one on which several composers have broken teeth. Arnalds pulls it off rather convincingly concept-wise, but this concept can easily be ignored and the music enjoyed on its own. This is extremely cinematic music with strong classical overtones, but an even stronger Scandinavian pop sensibility. If the suite's climax, "3055" (all track titles are actually time index markers), points the influence finger directly at Sigur Rós, Eulogy for Evolution as a whole is not that strongly marked by Iceland's most popular export. A string ensemble like Amiina (the violin solo "3326," superbly performed by Gréta Salome) or the fragile compositions of Jóhann Jóhannsson ("0729") offer more relevant points of comparison. This album will definitely appeal to fans of the post-rock mood, and rightfully so, as Arnalds has devised a poignant work. The suite's only negative point is its final section, where the composer attempts to break away from the piano-plus-strings mold, suddenly adding a rhythm section and digital stutters. This only manages to shatter the mood so nicely established over the previous 37 minutes. Yet, as frustrating as this flaw may be (and rationalizing it using the album's concept brings little comfort), it hardly tarnishes the album at all.
AllMusic Review by François Couture