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For now I am winter

2013
  1. Sudden Throw
  2. Brim
  3. For now I am winter (feat. Arnór Dan)
  4. A stutter (feat. Arnór Dan)
  5. Words of amber
  6. Reclaiim (feat. Arnór Dan)
  7. Hands, be still
  8. Only the winds
  9. Old skin (feat. Arnór Dan)
  10. We (too) shall rest
  11. This place was a shelter
  12. Carry me anew

It is not uncommon that a classical trained musician breaks the borders between genres to get to a more contemporary style. The opposite is much less frequent, but that is what Ólafur Arnalds has done.

This pianist and chamber music Icelandic composer began his career as a drummer who earned popularity touring with Sigur Rós. He has also worked for cinema (Sam Levinson's 'Another happy day' soundtrack in 2011) and television (the music for the 2013 British drama 'Broadchurch').

After publishing some of his works with the independent label Erased Tapes Records, for this his third solo album, Arnalds signed with Mercury Classics, a Universal Music division. And then comes what it means: international promotion campaigns, world tour and the whole support from a multinational company.

It can be noticed in the music, too. Ólafur himself is still at the laptops and keyboards, but now has the backup of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and Nico Muhly arrangements to wrap his compositions with a dense mantle of strings, woodwinds and brasses. He has also, for the first time in his career, worked with singer Arnór Dan Arnarson's porcelaine voice (from Icelandic band Agent Fresco).

There's a recurring (and cliché) relationship between "Icelandic music" and the ideas of "snow", "cold", "darkness" or "loneliness". And it is not this album the one that is going to end it (starting with its title). However, the melancholic beaty in For now I am winter is not oppressive nor mournful, but it has a gentle breeze of optimism, of hoping light. Maybe 'Sudden throw' or 'Words of amber' are more meditative themes, but tracks like 'Brim' or 'This place was a shelter' remind of the most energetic Michael Nyman... if Michael Nyman had ever used electronic percussion. In this sense, the mix of electronic trip-hop rythms, minimalist piano and epic orquestra is perfect in For now I am winter.

When he sings, Arnór Dan may call on the most popular image of Antony Hegarty (from Antony & The Johnsons), for them sharing vocal registers. But Dan let himself flow more easily with the instrumental whole, he joins it naturally and his voice ends being one more of the instruments, pushing the lyrics into the background.

Ólafur Arnalds' success (and For now I am winter itself's) of critic and audience should be good news and the ultimate evidence (once again) that good music does not have to be minority.