Published June 7, 2010
The Icelandic Opera is a strange little room. It’s a stripped-down, baroque-style hall with creaky seats and clattering doors. Every tiny sound—from the worst coughing fit to someone folding their concert ticket into origami—is as naturally amplified as the five musicians sitting onstage. Doing their best to set a serene atmosphere, the gentle sounds of Ólafur Arnalds’ piano and his string quartet are mostly overshadowed by every movement of every person in the hall.
As for Ólafur himself, he looks rather tired. He seems somewhat apprehensive and appears to be approaching the songs with an air of trepidation. As he greets the audience, thanking them and making humorous banter, he retains an air of constraint and shyness. His string players as well, while performing with demure gracefulness, seem to be feeling some leftover exhaustion from the two-week album launch tour they have just returned from. They all look like they could use a good long nap.
Nevertheless, the music itself does sound lovely. The songs from the new album ‘… and they have escaped the weight of darkness’ flow beautifully together, weaving from one to the other seamlessly. The only dividing indicators are the crafty use of spotlighting on each musician as they join the melody. The lighting is also a strong manipulator to the listener’s senses, leading one between various moods and emotional states as they listen to the music being played. Along with the very subtle set decoration of two giant bird mobiles hovering over the musicians, it is easy to find oneself staring off into the beams of light and forgetting the band entirely.