Olafur Arnalds: The Young Composer Who Just Dropped A Masterpiece

If you like your music with a dash of the dramatic, you need to check out the Icelandic soundscape peddler...
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If you like your music with a dash of the dramatic, you need to check out the Icelandic soundscape peddler...


One of the more heartening trends of the last 6 months is the plethora of great acts releasing albums that give no credence to the theory that people are no longer interested in the long player. The mainstream success of the likes of Alt-J, Everything Everything and Foals shows that there is still a hunger for the breadth and space that 180 seconds of finger-click just can’t provide. Although he (almost) certainly won’t experience sales to rival these three mentioned, we can certainly now include Olafur Arnalds, and his For Now I Am Winter record, on this list of artists.

You probably won’t have heard of Arnalds, but you may well recognise his music already. Like fellow Icelandic country-elves Sigur Ros, he has contributed music to film soundtracks and TV shows aplenty, including Looper, The Hunger Games, Broadchurch and, erm, So You Think You Can Dance?

Releasing primarily orchestral works since 2006, Arnalds’s rise to beard-stroker’s favourite has been slow and organic. With this album he seems to have finally found a wider audience, as a recent sell-out show at the Barbican would attest.

Starting with two instrumental tracks might not be the way to get yourself onto the rarefied ground of an A, B or C playlist, but the taught violins and nervy electronics of opener ‘Sudden Throw’ give the record an almost unbearably fraught opener that twists and tightens before being snapped by the strings and Boards Of Canada beats of “Brim”.


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When we finally get some vocals it is the five words of the album title, and though there is some relief at the addition of a voice to the mix, it is very much as another instrument; its place is to supplement, not overrule, and it works a treat.

Arnalds bears comparison to Dustin O’Halloran, whose Lumiere album was one of the lost classics of last year; both compose unbearably pretty songs that aren’t afraid to lean on a piano or violin to produce a soundscape that joins the dots between being floor-thumpingly sad and chest-beatingly happy. Arnalds embraces electronics a lot more, however, and as such those who found their love in the likes of the aforementioned Boards Of Canada or Kruger and Dorfmeister will find much to like here.

This is the sort of album that will start and finish in the time it takes you to correctly pronounce that Icelandic volcano that caused such a kerfuffle a couple years back; if this sounds like a suggestion of a record lacking in memorable moments, it is quite the opposite. It will segue itself perfectly with whatever you are doing at the time (as long as it doesn’t involve vigorous exercise or amphetamines), and enhance whatever your mood will be. Pretty sure you don’t get that with a One Direction tune.

For Now I Am Winter is out now, on  Mercury Classics

This article originally appeared on Brighton Lite