In Greek mythology, the god Atlas carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. For Marteinn Sindri’s debut album ‘Atlas’, the creation involved lifting the weight away and engaging in a deeply collaborative process.
With a 20-year background playing classical piano, singing in choirs and a career in radio, the singer-songwriter and composer came to find his own voice and write his first album thanks to those who lifted him up.
Small steps to comfort
The result is a low key but beguiling album of gentle, lyrical indie pop. The journey began when Marteinn was living in Berlin four years ago. He found himself with a guitar, rather than his default piano, and it became his primary tool for composition.
Early in this process, his friend Daníel Friðrik Böðvarsson stepped in to encourage him to make an album. “I visited him where he was living in Berlin and we made some demos,” Marteinn says. “I was also working with a local producer, Bergur Þórisson, who said, ‘the best thing you can do to make an album is to perform as much as you can.’ Which is what I did. I’ve tried to play a lot, locally and abroad. Every time is a small step towards getting a little more comfortable.”
Quality, texture, style
As his confidence in his own voice grew and with the coaching of his friends, they began to translate the songs back to piano. Two years later, Marteinn and Daníel moved into a studio setting with Albert Finnbogason and brought in a new wave of collaborative musicians.
“We were really navigating our different approaches and points of view and trying to find something that worked for us both in terms of quality and texture and style,” he says. “It happened quite fast there and we just had this plethora of material left afterwards. We were quite pragmatic about it as well, trusting that what’s there is good.”
Every single voice
The songs themselves began to take on new forms throughout the process as Marteinn performed as much as he could with a variety of artists. “I don’t have very fixed notions about how it’s supposed to sound live, it really depends on who’s with me,” he says. “That’s the beautiful thing about playing with others is that there’s so much potential in every single voice that steps in. The music is really performed for the first time every time it’s performed.”
As the songs took on their recorded shape, they became their own kind of world. “The songs are maps, they aren’t landscapes, so these maps take you through different landscapes every time you use them,” he says. “The album is anchored in a similar degree of composing music and composing texts, but they are rendered every time anew.”
This continuous process of renewal aided by strong collaborations lifted a certain burden for him and allowed him to just let things happen. “I’m conscious of my own limitations, I have my strengths and my weaknesses,” he says. “That comes back to this myth of Atlas who’s alone with the weight of the world on his shoulders. I would very starkly want to oppose that line of thought. That’s not my experience of how things should be. We shouldn’t strive towards isolating ourselves.”
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