Viktor Orri Árnason is probably best known in Iceland for his work in the band Hjaltalín, but lately, he’s been doing his own thing. Most recently, his own thing is collaborating with fellow Berlin resident and musician Yair Elazar Glotman to create an emotional project that somehow feels simultaneously enormous and intimate. The result is an album called ‘Vast’. The duo will play the album live in Berlin soon, but until then, they have more experimenting to do.
“It’s really difficult to make this work live because of issues that would occur when we start playing the music through speakers,” says Viktor. “You create feedback. And you need all the microphones to be able to do this, so that’s going to be a good month of experimenting.”
Destined to work together
The collaboration happened almost out of nowhere. The two had never met, but they both separately contributed to Johann Johannsson’s reworked version of Solari by Ryuichi Sakamoto. They heard each others’ work and liked it.
“We were also encouraged to meet because we had such similar ways of approaching our instruments,” Viktor says—they both have a background in classical music and a love for rock and roll.
“A seminal piece that started my love for music was ‘L.A. Woman’ by The Doors,” Yair says. “I found it on a cassette in my dad’s music collection when I was 5-years old.” Meanwhile, Viktor played in a rock band when he was a kid and won the Icelandic battle of the bands when he was 12-years old. Both artists gravitated toward classical music at an early age.
And so, with their similar taste, Viktor invited Yair to his studio for a play date. They pooled their resources and knowledge, pressed record, and began to play. “An album was not the plan, but rather a very happy accident,” Yair says. “Challenging each other to listen to things differently was the only suggestion we made for each track,” Viktor adds.
Don’t call it experimental (at least not before you call it emotional)
The result is a project that sounds like a score for an epic film. That’s not surprising, given Viktor’s background working with Jóhann Jóhannsson and Ólafur Arnalds. However, Viktor says it was never supposed to sound like a film score. “It was supposed to be an attempt between two musicians to create something out of bass, contrabass, and violin or viola. And just the two of us playing together, and exploring new worlds with those instruments.” Yair agrees that the work was never supposed to be anything other than a new perspective between two musicians and their instruments. “The perspective is capturing a distorted image where close and far are blended, and resulting in a focus on the hidden textural and spectral qualities of those instruments.”
While the two spent a lot of time experimenting with different sounds, they hesitate to call their work ‘experimental’. Their manager, Antonio Cárdenas, doesn’t hesitate. “Experimental, emotional, and intimate,” he describes it with a smile. “These three words work well together, with experimental placed last,” Viktor says, laughing. “If it’s only experimental, people get afraid of the music.”
“It is a new perspective and approach to two very old and familiar musical instruments,” Yair finishes.
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