Ólafur Arnalds

For Now I Am Winter

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Enigmatic Icelandic composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Ólafur Arnalds' major-label debut, the Mercury-issued (and aptly titled) For Now I Am Winter, effortlessly incorporates elements of pop into the budding singer/songwriter's already evocative blend of wistful neo-classicism and icy electronica. Though his work has been seeping into the mainstream of late, with soundtrack contributions to films like Looper and The Hunger Games, Arnalds remains a shadowy figure, and For Now I Am Winter, despite its more commercial leanings, does little to dispel that notion. Helped along by the tasteful orchestrations of American composer Nico Muhly and the fluid and expressive voice of guest vocalist and fellow Icelander Arnor Dan, the lush and lonesome collection falls somewhere between the ambient, string-laden melancholy of Eluvium, the rural soul searching of Bon Iver, and the cosmic opulence of Sigur Rós. Arnalds has cited the changing of the seasons as a key theme here, and while standout tracks like the mesmerizing "Old Skin" and the propulsive and vibrant "Reclaim," both of which toe the line between the playful dynamics of Owen Pallett's Heartland and the elegiac grandeur of Jónsi's Go, definitely hint at the verdancies of spring and summer, this is most certainly a winter's tale, and one that pairs well with Arnalds' more minimalist tendencies. While the four tracks that Dan lends his formidable pipes to provide the most instantly engaging moments on the album, instrumental selections like the quietly lustrous "Only the Winds," the fractured and foreboding "This Place Was a Shelter," and the lovely, bare-bones "Words of Amber" are just as resonant when allowed time to percolate.

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