One Little Indian
On an island as small as Iceland, you’d think everyone would have a distinct name, but think again. A few months ago I covered a New Age record by Ã’lafur Arnalds, and now I’m contemplating a female folk singer named Ã”löf Arnalds. I think it’s the diacritical marks that confuse me, but this Icelander sings intimate folk songs on an acoustic guitar with the squeaky little noises that nylon strings produce. It’s straight out of the hippy folk ethos of Bilbo Baggins or a remote Vermont Anarcho-syndicalism commune. While Ã”löf has excellent technical support in the recording studio, deep down she’s pure dirndl and earth shoes.
The opening number “Vinner Minn” enchants, her Icelandic vocals slide over a bouncy melody that comes right from a French New Wave film, and a backing chorus of what might be her own voice soars while very quietly in the background a child cries out. Intentional sound effect or open door in the studio? In Iceland who could tell? “Alti Guddi” ends the disc; it’s a pure instrumental with a plucked dulcimer in front of a lute or dobro. Ã”löf hums and scats quietly — it might be a lullaby or a love song. Quiet and peaceful, it fills sonic space with love and promise.
Between these signposts is a gentle landscape, volcanoes in the far distance steam peacefully, winter storms are a postcard pretty memory, and feral Teletubbies roam the hills. Tunes like “Vinkonur” sound like Thai restaurant soundtracks, others like “Madrid” blend right into the central Spanish highlands. All are tied together by Ã”löf’s ethereal vocals, and all relax without boring. Remote as Iceland may be, it’s fully integrated into the international music scene and fully capable of defending its musical honor in any style you care to call out.
Ã”löf Arnalds: www.myspace.com/olofarnalds