Ólafur Arnalds ‘Island Songs’
Ólafur Arnalds is an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer. His usual style, a mixture of strings and piano with electronic beats and synths, creates a crossover from ambient electronic to a more mainstream pop feel. However in the album ‘Island Songs’ he has stripped it right back to just the organic sound of strings, various keyboard instruments and voice.
‘Island Songs’ was a project Arnalds took on in 2016 as a homage to his homeland, Iceland and the people whom he takes inspiration from. Recorded over 7 weeks in 7 very different small towns across Iceland, using all local musicians, he has created an album which perfectly reflects the island's monochromatic beauty. All seven tracks, seemingly similar and beautifully sparse, are paired with a simple but breathtaking film clip of the live performance filmed by Baldvin Z, each a magical moment in time.
A highlight of the album for me is the week 6 recording ‘Particles.’ The only track to have a lead vocal, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir from Of Monsters and Men graces it with her unique yet familiar voice. ‘Particles’ is set in the town of Garður on the Reykjanes peninsula, where Nanna is from, performed inside one of the two lighthouses (I have no idea how they got that piano in there!). Nanna describes Garður as a quiet place with not much to do which inspired her creativity, “When I go back to Garður I get the same feeling of tranquility and vulnerability that comes with being a kid,” which kind of describes the feeling that this song evokes.
Overall ‘Island Songs’ is a beautiful project which really gives you an accurate sense of Icelandic music, landscapes and the community of musicians within. It does have an overall melancholic feel to it so if you are feeling the need to immerse yourself in half an hour of emotional music therapy I highly recommend - good for stressful public transport situations!
Words by Sheri Quirk.