Ólafur Arnalds track-by-track
Icelandic neo-classical electronic composer Ólafur Arnalds is set to play a one-off show at Manchester Bridgewater Hall with Johnny Greenwood. This event on the 1st July will mark the world premiere of Ólafur’s new album '...and they have escaped the weight of darkness'. Arnalds will perform the album in full with the RNCM Symphony Orchestra conducted by André de Ridder, who has previously worked with Nico Muhly and Damon Albarn. The RNCM will also perform Jonny Greenwood's ‘Popcorn Superhet Receiver’ alongside a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’.
Arnalds sat down and gave us a track-by-track of his new work ...
1. ‘Þú ert sólin’
“One of the newer songs on the album, probably my personal favorite. The strings melody was originally the piano, but I thought it was better on strings so I made a new piano line. This was the perfect opener for me, something that tells a lot about what's about to happen... kind of like the opening theme in a movie.
2. ‘Þú ert jörðin’
“I wrote this song actually after I started recording. I felt the album was missing something, some more of a build up before the crescendo in the next song. I decided this in the middle of the piano recordings actually, and I knew I couldn't go back into the piano studio (it's in Germany), so I had to just record something there, and hope it would be a good base for a song. So I just hit record, played that piano motif a bunch of times and made a few different beginnings and endings to it - so I could choose afterwards, depending on what the rest of the song would be like.
“The end of that Rhodes piano line is one of the geekiest moments of the album... I spent over 2 hours getting the echo just right there (I was using a very old Roland RE-301 Space Echo, which quite randomly changes speed... so it's hard to get things exactly like you want them)
“Conceptually, this is where things shake up a bit. Hence the crescendo here and things exploding a bit. And the really sad ending.. leading into the middle part of the album, the dark part.
4. ‘Loftið verður skyndilega kalt’
“I actually almost deleted this song off the album, as I wasn't happy with the recording of it... Didn't think that it portrayed the real feeling of the song well enough. But I was convinced to keep it on, and am happy I did... I had just been working on it too much. It's one of the oldest songs on the album, written in early 2008.
“Another song I think works better live than on recording, but an important part of the 'story' the album is telling. I love writing simple stuff like this and trying to take it as far as I can go. Here I was exploring how the same 3 notes can mean something completely different in the beginning and the ending of the song - just because their surroundings are different.
6. ‘Gleypa Okkur’
“Another personal favorite. Barði (co-producer) had a huge effect on this song. When I brought it to him it had really heavy, distorted drums and screaming synths but it turned into light brushed drums, e-bow guitars and a choir. I think this was over 160 tracks in the studio... Each time you listen you should be able to find new elements.. there are harpsichords, timpanis, rhodes, synths, shakers and a bunch of electronics. I never get tired of hearing that huge sub-bass drum when listening in a good stereo.
7. ‘Hægt, kemur ljósið’
“This is where things turn around again, where the light starts coming back from the shadows and the little 'story' starts closing in to a happy ending.
8. ‘Undan Hulu’
“...probably better known as The Cello Song. It's the oldest song on the album, and I performed it on a German TV show in late 2007 - that went on you tube and has since then become quite known... so it's great to finally have a proper recording of it out. As the working title may have suggested - it's a cello solo, accompanied by piano.
9. ‘Þau hafa sloppið undan þunga myrkursins’
“The album's title track (translated into Icelandic) and the story’s finale. I wanted an happy ending to the album, to end with something positive... to put emphasis on the point that the light always comes back...“