From Iceland — The Immeasurable And The Unsaid: Tumi & Maggi's 'Allt Er Ómælið'

The Immeasurable And The Unsaid: Tumi & Maggi’s ‘Allt Er Ómælið’

Published March 21, 2019

The Immeasurable And The Unsaid: Tumi & Maggi’s ‘Allt Er Ómælið’
Phil Uwe Widiger
Photo by
Magnús Andersen & Art Bicnick

“Everything is immeasurable,” said the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander. Did he actually predict that sometime in the future, there would be a music genre called jazz? We might never know. But drum and saxophone duo Tumi Arnason and Magnús Trygvason Eliassen decided to name their album after this particular statement regardless—and it makes perfect sense.

The creative void

“In Icelandic, it’s also a play on words,” says Tumi, a saxophonist who performs with various Icelandic bands. “It suggests that there is something unsaid.”

“We were wondering where this spontaneous music came from.”

The record is comprised of free improvised music. Some of the songs are spontaneous improvisations, whereas others have slowly evolved over time. There are underlying song structures that the listener will never hear—and this is where we find the unsaid and immeasurable.

“We were wondering where this spontaneous music came from,” remembers Tumi. “Improvisation is always also an interplay between the musicians and their relationship. It doesn’t really come from nothing, but there are still a lot of things that didn’t exist before. Or at least, things we didn’t know existed.”

Two musicians under one roof

Magnús and Tumi had been collaborating regularly for a few years, but this is the first time they’ve released their work as a physical record. If you listen to the first track of the album, entitled “You can have it,” with headphones, it sounds as if you were standing right next to them at the moment of the recording.

“We recorded the album in this tiny studio on the top floor of Iðnó, right under the roof,” says Tumi. “We just set up the drums in one corner, and I was in another corner.”

Alive and dry

All the songs on ‘Allt er ómælið’ were recorded live. Tumi had been experimenting with using effects on the saxophone for many years, and one can hear the value of this experience listening to the record. He says that this album is more “alive and dry” than some of the other stuff he has done.

“There were tiny parts that I wanted to change,” remembers Tumi. “But it was better to leave them in. That way, it’s more real and authentic.”

Jazz & co.

The outcome is an album ripe with intimacy—and arguably the first Icelandic sax and drum record ever released. “Seeing how productive the music scene here is, I feel it’s a shame how little of this type of music finds its way onto physical records,” says Tumi. “One of the reasons why I wanted to do this record was to prove that’s it’s not that unrealistic.”

“I feel it’s a shame how little of this type of music finds its way onto physical records.”

The Icelandic jazz scene sometimes seems to be set apart from the all the other music in the country. According to Tumi, we not only need to see more of its experimental side, but it would also benefit from blending and cross-pollinating with other genres at concerts. Some hardcore, some jazz, and then some electronica—R6013, are you listening?

A record on global warming

Both Magnús and Tumi are busy people, and while Tumi is about to release the third full length record with his band Grísalappalísa this summer, they’re also working on another record together.

“I still want to do a sax, drum and bass trio record,” says Tumi. “But now I also have this other idea I can’t shake out of my head. I really want to do a record about global warming. And I think Magnús will be on it as well.”

Tumi Árnason and Magnús Trygvason Eliassen’s new album ‘Allt er ómælið’ is now available on Bandcamp.

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