Olafur Arnalds had only released one full length album prior to the release of this record. To me, that seems crazy given the volume of music he has released over the past year or so. However, it’s true. In real terms, this is only his second long player. As such, I’m not going to assess this against the EPs that followed his debut record ‘Eulogy for Evolution’ but merely consider how the man has progressed since his brilliant debut propelled him into the spotlight.
It would be easy for somebody so talented at writing a classical composition to stick to what he knows best and, therefore, what he produced on his debut record. However, Arnalds does not appear to be somebody who is willing to reproduce past glories or rest on his laurels. He wants to explore new sounds, test how classical music can cross the divide to mainstream by using more accessible instruments and techniques. That’s not to say that this is a massive departure in sound from his previous work, because it’s not, but there are some real subtle additions to this work, which take the record in a different direction and may well introduce Arnalds to a whole new audience in the process. The introduction of live rock drums is the perfect example of this, at times taking the record beyond being a simple classical record and into the world where classical and mainstream collide. Classical purists may well choke on their half time glass of champagne at this turn of events but when the drums kick in on ‘Tunglio’ the album explodes into life. It’s a trick repeated elsewhere on the album, just to life the tempo perhaps, and it’s one that works perfectly adding a new dimension to the always wonderful piano and string arrangements.
Elsewhere, Arnalds is at his understated and simplistic best, creating piano and string lines that hook into your heart and drip through your body til all you can do is lie down and let the music take you over. Not many musicians have the ability to write this many wonderful piano lines. If you cannot feel emotional listening to this record, then you must be dead inside.
If creating a second album is about challenging yourself creatively and stepping out of your comfort zone, then I don’t think Arnalds achieves this simply by adding drums to this record. Nor do I believe this was his intention. The familiar piano motifs are all in attendance on this record. The wonderful string arrangements are there too. Adding the drums, for me, feels more like an attempt to attract a new audience than a deliberate attempt to change direction. That said, what this record does do is leave me wondering what will happen next. On the back of this, Arnalds could come back with a full orchestral/electronic explosion, or he could come back with an album of simple piano pieces of stunning beauty. Neither would surprise me. And on the basis of this record, both would delight me. It really is an excellent piece of music from start to finish. Olafur Arnalds continues to be an inspiration to me. Filling my head with beautiful sounds and making this world a better place to be. You can check out his work here. DO IT and enjoy.