Gabríel Ólafs’ debut album ‘Absent Minded’ is out now on One Little Indian, available on all streaming platforms and in stores on vinyl.
As Icelandic artists continue to establish themselves in the world of modern classical music, a new generation of musicians is beginning to follow in the same vein. One such artist is the bright young pianist Gabríel Ólafs, who is making melodic, romantic yet minimal music fit for a movie score. He has just released his first album, ‘Absent Minded’, after being picked up by One Little Indian records right at the inception of his career.
The 20-year old Reykjavík native began playing piano at age five and headed to the FÍH music school in his teens to study jazz. From there, he began composing quite young. “I wrote the main melody of the album when I was 14,” he says. “I always had this melody in mind. It has different chapters that were written later and then I sort of put it together.”
This piece became the title track of his album, which he composed, arranged and recorded himself over 2018. These songs with many chapters recall older classical pieces of the Romantic era that flow gracefully from one section to another, without necessarily repeating. “Some think it’s unnecessary to have too many movements in a track but liked it like that,” he says. “To have obvious chapters and strong melodies and different flavours.”
Obsessed with film scores
He actively composed as he recorded, each song creating visually evocative worlds. Gabríel finds much of his inspiration and influences in movie scores, and he approaches his songwriting with film in mind. “I’ve been obsessed with film scores since I was 7-years old, when I was watching Pixar movies,” he says. “It just blew my mind how writing a theme or having specific instruments for the score, it sort of transports you to the place or the vibe of the movie.”
“I definitely do this system, where they have certain themes to each song,” he continues. “I didn’t have characters or a plot, but I wrote these melodies with themes. Even though I like to keep the story of the album with the listener, this is definitely how I approached it. I am always imagining a music video while I’m composing.”
Little bit of electronic
Gabríel is now on the cusp of playing at Iceland Airwaves for the second time, and is feeling far more confident and ready to put his best foot forward this year. “I was really happy back then because I hadn’t released the album and still a lot of people were there,” he says. “I had eight players with me last year, which is a bit much, so maybe I’ll do something a little different this time. Minimise it a little bit. Maybe have a bit of electronics. I think I’ll be playing work-in-progress songs.”
In the meantime, he is already composing and recording for a second album, where he finds that his process has changed but the goal is still the same. “I think I’ve retained the sound I’m kind of creating for myself, with strong melodies and obvious chapters,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to the future, knowing what I’ve learned on this album. This album will always be close to my heart.”
Gabríel will be playing Iceland Airwaves, which will be held from November 6th to 9th.
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