…and they have escaped the weight of darkness
Iceland — a country with more woe than most and the stoic heart to survive whatever man and nature throw at it. They also have a soft spot, one that dominates this surprisingly tender selection of original chamber music by Ólafur Arnalds (co-produced by BarÃ°i Jóhannsson). Bear with me if the typography looks funny — Icelandic has a few letters that English lacks, and they use them everywhere. Don’t glaze over when looking at the mysterious titles on the track list; this collection is more than worth the minor spelling barriers. There’s a story behind each of these works, but it’s less important than the music itself.
Arnalds began his career drumming for Fighting Shit and Celestine, but soon moved into classical and electronic. His brand of electronica is nearly indistinguishable from the classical music that used to fill Sunday afternoons on NPR, but he subtly modifies the chords and notes with looping and gentle distortions. His manipulations recall the effect of playing in a spacious room, with furniture and glassware picking up occasional resonances. The electronic instruments give him more control over amplitude as well, and his metal drumming mixed with the cello leads to some interesting growth in complexity and level as songs progress. Arnalds’ instrument of choice is now the piano, but he uses electric organs and Tony Levin on bass to expand the microcosm of the chamber to its own universe. This is no Muzak — each piece compels with its simpleness, draws you in, and smothers you with feeling.