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Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 5:09:38 PM
by adrian yap c.k.
Be still: Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds is hoping for a very personal set where he can share his songs and talk to his fans tonight at The Bee, Publika in Kuala Lumpur.
Ólafur Arnalds is set to unleash a night of intimate reflection in Kuala Lumpur.
FOR someone who makes the kind of music he does, Icelandic multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Ólafur Arnalds is hardly a languid character. There’s a certain energy he exudes, even through the phone, as we found out during a recent long distance chat from Iceland.
It was early morning in Reykjavík, Iceland, and Arnalds sounded highly enthusiastic as he spoke about his music, especially his recently released third album For Now I Am Winter, which he will introduce to Malaysian fans at his gig at The Bee, Publika in Kuala Lumpur tonight.
His Asian tour will also include dates in Taiwan and Hong Kong this month, bringing the young man’s unique and intricate music to a new audience in these parts.
“For this record, I wanted to see how far I could push the kind of music I usually make, using the same tools,” shares Arnalds. “I wanted to continue that journey of merging classical music with electronic elements, but at the same time for it to be different from the usual.”
The signature Arnalds touches remain the same – dramatic string-laden movements of ambient electronica with classical piano tinkering – but the key difference is the introduction of a vocalist, with Arnalds, 26, engaging fellow Icelandic vocalist Arnór Dan to add texture to his gorgeous soundscapes.
It’s a simple turn that does wonders, as tracks such as A Stutter, Old Skin and the title track are transformed from subtle abstract pieces into remarkable cuts of heartfelt melancholia. But as an artiste that has largely worked with just instrumental music in the past, how difficult was it to incorporate a huge change like “singing” into what is already an established format?
“It started out as just an experiment, to see where we could go with it,” adds Arnalds, who lists Japanese music legend Ryuichi Sakamoto as someone he would really like to work with in the future.
“It’s not really that hard because a lot of what Arnór went for worked almost immediately.”
He went on to explain that it’s not really much of a hassle working with vocals.
“While I write the violin lines, I don’t really play the violins myself as well,” he explained. “In the same way, I had to just convey what I was thinking to him (Arnór Dan).”
Arnalds confessed to being worried about the lyrics, given that Dan wrote them on his own. But he was glad to find that “everything he wrote was already very good.”
Recently, Arnalds composed the music for German multi-media artist and designer Joachim Sauter’s Symphonie Cinétique exhibition this month at Berlin’s Berlin MADE Gallery. It features Sauter’s kinetic sculptures in a choreography that fuses light, sound and motion in space.
In the past few years, Arnalds has also gained prominence as one of the bright lights in the contemporary neo-classical and soundtrack community (alongside Max Richter, Yann Tiersen, Nils Frahm). If you want an early sampling of Arnalds’ music, London-based Erased Tapes Records reissued all four of his 10” albums/EPs on vinyl earlier this year.
On the topic of Icelandic music, he clearly embraces his home country’s musical values, with his album cover and design continuing the tradition of ghostly imagery and faded colours that have become synonymous with prominent Icelandic artistes such as Sigur Rós (whom he has been on tour with) and Björk.
It begs the question: does the gorgeous sight of the lava fields in Iceland inspire music and imagery like this?
“Maybe there’s something in the water. Iceland is a fairly mystical place, a lot of this cross influence has probably more to do with the size of the musical community.”
He says that there’s not as much pop and rock music that gets around Iceland to begin with, so “we influence each other.”
And curiously we ask him about his live shows and how far away he wanders from the studio-based mindset.
“I am not a big fan of copying my records for my live sets because it’s a very different setting,” he says.
“There are songs that are on my records that I will never play live and there are also songs that I only play live that are not on my records.”
Arnalds went on to explain that his goal is to create more intimate versions of his songs for a live setting.
“I like to make the songs sound like someone is just playing them in a living room.”
Upfront presents Ólafur Arnalds will be held at The Bee, Publika in Kuala Lumpur tonight. Tickets priced at RM108 will be available at the door. Showtime is 8pm. For tickets, visit the venue early, call 03-6201-8577 or browse www.thebee.com.my. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Arnalds’ For Now I Am Winter album is released by Universal Music Malaysia.
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