In a couple of weeks, I’m going to a concert of Óli Arnalds @ Arenbergschouwburg @ Antwerp, Belgium.
This is a video I shot of the encore @ venue ‘t Smiske (Asse) more than 2 years ago during his first Belgian gig ever. A cover of Death Cab for Cutie‘s:
“Marching Bands of Manhattan“
IMX puts him in the spotlight:
Ólafur Arnalds – Light & Warmth
Born in 1986, Ólafur Arnalds hails from the suburban Icelandic town Mosfellsbær, just a few kilometres outside of Reykjavík. He has immersed himself in a world of delicate symphonic compositions generating near weightless orchestral pieces. Arnalds explores the crossover from classical to pop by mixing chamber strings and piano with discreet electronics. His motivations are clear: “The classical scene is kind of closed to people who haven’t been studying music all their lives. I would like to bring my classical influence to the people who don’t usually listen to this kind of music…open people’s minds.”
Through relentless touring and determination this young artist has steadily gained recognition worldwide since his 2007 debut “Eulogy for Evolution“. He has sold out some of the world’s most renowned music venues, including Barbican Hall in London, supporting fellow Icelanders Sigur Rós on their most recent European shows. Arnalds‘ BBC Radio 1 live session for Gilles Peterson was awarded the best live session of 2008 by Gilles himself. The 2008 follow-up EP “Variations of Static” earned Arnalds acclaim from both the contemporary and classical field – transcending a traditional divide.
Since then Arnalds has written music for advertisements for Falck, Sony, Icelandair and others, as well as having his music featured in several films. One of the world’s most successful fashion designers, Dries Van Noten, asked Arnalds to write and play live the music accompanying his Autumn/Winter 2008 fashion show at the Paris Fashion Week. Arnalds also conceived “Found Songs” as a way to collate several lost and found musical sketches and ideas in a ‘very challenging, but fun’ series. He created, recorded and released online for free, one song per day for a week. The experiment offers its listeners an intimate insight into Ólafur Arnalds’ creative world – so far more than 100.000 people downloaded the Found Song’ series via Erased Tapes.
Arnalds’ growing reputation has also won him the attention of the internationally renowned British dance choreographer Wayne McGregor who has invited him to score his brand new work. “Dyad 1909” was premiered in London at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre last October. In March 2010 he embarked on his first ever China Tour, which included sold-out shows in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing, and a live webcast watched by thousands of fans all round the world.
On 1. July 2010 Ólafur Arnalds will be performing the premiere of his new album, ‘- “…and they have escaped the weight of darkness“, with brand new arrangements for a symphony orchestra at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. André de Ridder, who previously worked with Nico Muhly and Damon Albarn, will be conducting the show. Arnalds will continue touring the rest of the world throughout the year to promote the new album release. The album will be released via Erased Tapes Records on 7. May (Europe)/10. May (UK)/20. May (Japan)/8. June (North America), 2010.
Interview by Iceland Music Export
We recently saw some photos of you dressed in exuberant Chinese costumes – what was all that about?
Basically exactly what it looked like – incredibly lame tourist stuff that we just find very amusing! We were in China on tour and had a day off. We walked along West Lake and saw this tourist booth…
How did you find China – what preconceptions about the country held true and which ones were shattered?
I found it very very interesting. I didn’t have many preconceptions at all to be honest, went there pretty open minded.. it’s the only way to do it. It was definitely a strange place to tour, but not in a bad way. This is all very new to people, especially in the “small towns” (mind you, these “small towns” as they call them are still cities of 5 million people…). It felt good to be able to bring something new, a cultural clash. It’s interesting. Of course in the bigger cities (over 16 million) people are more accustomed to this kind of music and there I had lots of fans, which was great to see.
You’ve been working hard on a new album, what can you tell us about that?
It’s called “...and they have escaped the weight of darkness“ and is out worldwide on 7. May.
How did you approach this new project compared to previous albums?
I wanted to let my music evolve a little bit in a more ‘pop’ direction, while still keeping the fundamentals… So while the songwriting itself maybe wasn’t so different i approached the producing quite differently – bigger and fuller… lots of experiments.
Why did you choose to work with Barði from Bang Gang and how did the two of you work together?
When I heard his latest record “Ghosts From the Past” I just thought to myself, “wow, this sounds amazing, I want to work with that guy”. His sound is so earthly and natural, but still so clean and ‘pop’. So I just called him up and asked him if he was interested in co-producing the record with me. I had lots of ideas down, but he helped me refine them and make them more solid. We worked really well together.
Did he contribute mainly to songwriting or to playing too?
He didn’t really contribute to the songwriting itself, more just the way the songwriting is presented (ie. producing). I think he played a couple of guitar or keyboard lines, but nothing major. He was mostly just behind the mixer desk.
You wrote some of the pieces while touring, right? Is that normal for you?
Yeah, I actually wrote most of the original song ideas on tour. That’s pretty normal for me. Each day on tour I get these couple of hours where there is a grand piano on stage and the sound man wants me to play something. I would get bored of just playing my own songs, so I improvise. A lot of ideas come through that and I get really inspired just from having an instrument in front of me that I haven’t played before.
Isn’t it difficult to write while on tour? And did you play some of the songs live while touring?
I usually just sketch the ideas and then I finish them when I get home. I find it hard to really sit down and arrange strings and everything else while on tour. I’ve done it a few times though, but I usually don’t feel happy with them until I get home and get to really sink myself into it.
It feels very optimistic and warm – judging by the title this was intentional, yes?
Yes. It was. I wouldn’t say it’s happy, but yes, I wanted to leave the album with some feeling of hope…some warmth.
What were the most difficult aspects of making this album?
Probably the mix, I’m a perfectionist to a silly level when it comes to mixing…
And what were the most enjoyable?
I actually thoroughly enjoyed every single bit of the process, it was a very educational experience. I’ve never spent so much time and energy on any other project before. Every little detail was thought-out and I learned a lot from that.
You have a load more gigs coming up, including a special premiere of the new album with the RNCM Symphony Orchestra, alongside work by Johnny Greenwood – how did that come about?
I recently met conductor André de Ridder who is really into my stuff. We decided to do a few of these kinds of gigs together. This is just the first one…
And you’ll be part of the next Norðrið show, is that right? What are you expecting from Germany, as you’ve played quite a lot there…
Yup. I have high expectations for this. We decided to go for pretty small venues and just try to have every show packed and intimate. So it should be very interesting!
Your 2010 has been a roaring success already, but is there anything else you want to achieve this year?
I’m hoping my first big movie score commission will come through this year. There are some talks afoot…fingers crossed.
Song “Ljósið” (The Light) @ The Wall (March 2010)
Ólafur Arnalds @ MySpace
By Tickets for the Upcoming Shows: