Ólafur Arnalds’ highly anticipated second full-length album …And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness, continues his mission to lure an indie-generation of pop and rock fans into an emotive world of beguiling electronic chamber music and delicate classical arrangements.
The sense of an organic crossover recording is reinforced by the involvement of co-producer Barði Jóhannsson of eccentric pop-rock-electronica-formation Bang Gang. Barði has successfully coloured the brittle minimalism of previous releases through the addition of an array of new instruments. Those expecting a mere continuation of the minimal melancholia of his previous albums are therefore in for a surprise, as the record may be the most uplifting and richly orchestrated work of his career: ”The album has a very clear theme”, Arnalds relates, “which is that there is always light after darkness. To me, it has a more positive note than my previous works.” When Ólafur saw how the opening scene of a Hungarian indie film metaphorically described a solar eclipse, he instantly connected it to the concept, naming the album after a key line of the film’s introductory monologue.
Staying true to this positive note, …And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness will herald another intense year for Ólafur Arnalds, with the album being accompanied by a world tour, starting in China in March 2010. Born in the suburban Icelandic town of Mosfellsbær, a few kilometres outside of Reykjavík, the 23-year old composer has always enjoyed pushing boundaries with both his studio work and his live-shows. His new opus is set to again challenge his fan base, which is still growing rapidly. In many ways, this record is clearly inspired and informed by these events. Several of the pieces were, in fact, written on and off throughout his tour and benefit directly from the intensity of the live situation and the emotional roller-coaster-ride of life on the road: ”The first half of Gleypa okkur was written in a sound check in Munich, for example”, Arnalds relates, “while the second part was scored in Braunschweig, Germany.” On the other hand it is the result of meticulous studio work, of refining compositions in close co-operation with compatriot Barði Johannsson, known for his eccentric personality and unique electro-acoustic sound: I definitely wanted to do something a bit different this time, something more. Working with a producer was a part of that.
The enthusiasm translates to arrangements displaying a new sense of sonic diversity. Ólafur Arnalds has created an even more open and spacious sound and taken his distinct style to a new level. Compared to his previous works, …And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness makes use of diverse instrumentation – drums, guitars, voice, Rhodes, a selection of subtle synthesisers, alongside Arnalds’ trademark piano as well as Tony Levin on bass. Traditional terminologies become void on his latest offering, which blends contrasting elements into an original, entirely organic new language and a sensitive ballet of the mind. Arnalds fusion of 21st century electronics and classical vocabulary thereby continues to decisively unwrap the sealed-off world of classical music.