Probably because of my past as an amateur pianist and my boundless passion for the music of all kinds and genres, I developed an emotional connection with the music of Ólafur Arnalds as soon as I started listening to his works. I’ve been always impressed by the ability of the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and composer in creating delicate, melodic and passionate songs, inspired by the melodies of the classical repertoire, which were transported, with inspiration and talent, in a new modern and “electronic” context. A moderate criticism that could perhaps be expressed about Arnalds’ music was about his recourse, in some cases, to musical expressions and atmospheres that could appear a bit too “sugary” and, to a certain extent, didactic. At least this was what I heard from some of the friends or acquaintances with whom I was trying to share my passion for this artist. Objectively, however, everyone recognizes that Ólafur Arnalds has been one of the forerunner of that impressive mass of authors and composers who nowadays populate many playlists of Spotify with their melodic, minimal, but in many cases extremely uninspired and mannerist pieces.
I felt the need to write the above as an introduction to the considerations that I developed after listening for a couple of times to the new and long-awaited album of Ólafur Arnalds, named Re: member, which constitutes the fourth LP of a discography that is very rich of singles, EP, collaborations, soundtracks and even a mixtape. What could we expect from an artist who generated so many disciples and followers if not a completely revolutionary and somewhat controversial album?
Forget the lyrical and intimate melodies of “For Now I Am Winter”, the beautiful mixes of strings and piano of “…And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness”, and the neo-classical inspired ambient of “Eulogy for Evolution”. Instead, prepare yourself for a journey into a severe minimalism that only sporadically leaves he floor to sketches of melodies. Delicate layers of sounds and simple loops create here beautiful atmospheres, and we find ourselves suspended in a cloud of lightness, which is the ideal environment to travel back into our memories, which was peraphs one of the goals of the author if we interpret the title of the album.
The casual listeners will struggle to recognize the artist in many of the songs that are featured in this collection. His touch, however, is always present and recognizable for those who, like me, have enjoyed all of his previous works. These music lovers will surely appreciate the attempt of the artist to evolve his music towards new grounds and to challenge himself with new paths. Re: member will not be the most catchy and enjoyable entry in Arnalds’ wide catalogue of songs, but it is definitely a new important chapter in a musical career that has always seen him as a pioneer of modern classical music rather than just a follower of trends.
The album can be streamed from Spotify.
My favorite songs are: saman, ekki ugsa and the title-track re:member.