Olafur Arnalds - Eulogy for Evolution
Arnald's album, a chill, stark neo-classical undertaking, shimmering with plaintive piano and underscored with violin and cello, is a poignant and pointed debut. His record company use the term ‘indie classical’; not ideal but I can think of worse bylines with which to pull in the punters. Each of the eight pieces here is minimal in shape as well as name. Album opener ‘0040’ sets going a repetitive piano motif around which strings slowly start to circle. ‘0048/0729’ and ‘0952’ follow similarly. Key motifs gradually re-appear in different shades. It is all stately and formal, hushed and ghostly. Midway through, on ‘1440’, the pattern changes slightly, the strings become more lyrical. ‘1953’ runs for eight minutes and, without warning, as both release and relief, percussion appears for the first time and hushed drums drive the track to its end.
The more I listen to ‘Eulogy for Evolution’, the more it enfolds me. It’s difficult to know where to start as far as comparisons are concerned. At times, its repetition, its layering of key refrains brings to mind the work of Michael Nyman; I’m reminded of ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’ on ‘0040’. Beyond that, I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s studied but impassioned; it’s chamber music but is surely too tempting, too wholly inviting to not tempt non-classical fans. Whatever it is, Arnald’s work is brave, unique and defiantly outré. True to its name, ‘Eulogy for Evolution’ is enough to send creationists running to Darwin.