Ólafur Arnalds - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Music
Review
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Ólafur Arnalds


Published July 21, 2010

If you’ve ever witnessed Ólafur Arnalds perform, you know that his music has an almost magical aura. I recently saw a hall with hundreds of metal-festival attendees hushing each other fervently while devotedly taking in Ólafur and his string quartet. It was a unique experience, and a good argument for calling his music ‘ambient’ rather than ‘neo-classical’. The atmosphere conjured by his fragile piano and string pieces make his concerts a remarkable experience, but also make it one that is nearly impossible to catch on record.
Ólafur’s second full-length suffers from this problem, and it fails to offer a solution. In the context of my living room, the nine tracks on offer do not offer enough variation in tempo and arrangement to create highlights or construct drama or emotion. Only small spots in ‘Tunglið’ and ‘Hægt, kemur ljósið’ stand out with instrumental outbreaks that manage to evoke some chills, finally. Apart from those, a grave monotony reigns over the record. It feels like you’re hearing the intro and waiting for the record to begin for 40 minutes.
Then it’s over.
By Florian Zühlke
It could be ambience, it could be dinner music, it could be a soundtrack, it could be a composition, it could be an exercise in tones or the string arrangements to an album without the actual music; it could be played at weddings, funerals, yoga classes, book clubs, planetariums, tea parties, cocktail parties (the boring ones), massage therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, coffee shops, New Age shops, on airplanes (in fact, I think it probably is on the Icelandair playlist), bike rides, meditations… in short, what it could be is made by absolutely anyone, and what it could do is disappear completely without cause for much alarm.
By Sindri Eldon
Verdict: Samey ambient/neo-classical that lacks variation and drama.

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