Ólafur Arnalds: For Now I Am Winter

The death of an 11-year-old boy. The subsequent discovery on a beach. The cover up. The informing of the parents. A police officer searching the child’s bedroom. I am very nearly moved to tears.

It’s a TV drama, one that British TV seems to do so well but somewhat over frequently, but with a difference. This one, Broadchurch, is scored by Ólafur Arnalds. I’m watching it for Ólafur’s music, and I’m not disappointed. The music enhances and enriches what may have otherwise been just another series. It is, without doubt, the reason I am blubbing away.

It seems there is no escape from Ólafur Arnalds at the moment. He has just released his latest album For Now I Am Winter. It was a release that caused some consternation with his fans; it was his first release on a major record label, and he had decided to bring in a vocalist.

There was no need to worry. For Now I Am Winter is a delicious piece of work. The strings, as ever, are lush and bountiful, and especially on ‘Brim.’ The electronics are also present, bringing a futuristic component to pieces, which can either be sublime or intentionally jarring.

The noise that sounds like breaking ice on a frozen lake on ‘Sudden Throw’ is in the latter category. Either way, all the components that serve to make Ólafur Arnalds music so unique are present and correct.

The surprise is Arnór Dan, the aforementioned vocalist. Usually part of the band Agent Fresco, I have previously seen him live, a terrifying prospect in which he growled, snarled and tried to orally ingest the microphone. Here though, he is gentle and restrained. He handles the album’s title song with delicacy, not stealing the limelight from Ólafur but actually adding to the whole sensory experience. On ‘A Stutter,’ he is barely there at all, almost eclipsed by the yearning strings, whilst on ‘Old Skin’ he reappears with an engaging performance.

I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing Ólafur live too. On a cold winter’s day in Reykjavík, Ólafur asked the entire audience to sit on the floor like a school assembly whilst he played the most beguiling, soaring pieces accompanied by violin and cello. The wind howled in from the sea outside, and I hugged my own knees. It was one of the best concerts of been to in a long time.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Ólafur will be releasing many more albums like For Now I Am Winter. I think his future lies in soundtracks; the excellent Broadchurch seems to back me up with this theory. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just catch him whilst you can. If you want someone to bring you to tears with intelligent, beautiful music, there is no one better than Ólafur Arnalds.

Iceland Review online version.

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