Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter (Album Review)

From simply scraping the ice off the windscreen to looking down from that huge snow slope that you know you have to go down with the home made sledge – the anticipation of all these things combined can only signify one thing: Winter is here. In a lot of ways, winter can be a time of loss, death and deprivation. It is comparable to the life of a fruit tree in winter, at times going through a scenic transformation into a green, blossoming sight, as the blizzards and snow evaporate, and new seasons emerge, while at times winter could almost be a very threatening, frightening animal, with a tail so vicious that it lashes, with teeth so gnarled and scary that it bites. Whatever it is, young burgeoning Icelandic composer, Ólafur Arnalds, seemed to have it all figured out, taking crisp electronic arrangements into a dark corner, and integrating them with his slow-paced, minimalistic chamber music, to produce something quite wonderfully elusive and poignant. His major label debut, his fourth LP release, For Now I Am Winter is a marvelous cascade of emotional disparity and inward illustrations at its finest.

Arnalds began his music career playing drums for the charmingly named hardcore band, Fighting Shit. With an illicit love and passion for classical and film music, his public profile slowly expanded as he toured with the infamous Sigur Rós. For Now I Am Winter  was able to incorporate vocals in at least two tracks in the record successfully featuring Arnór Dan, the lead vocalist of an Icelandic band, Agent Fresco. Self-titled track, For Now I Am Winter, starts off with a cautious, yet subtle accompaniment of tunes as Dan’s voice here is more of a pristine, careful wrought thing upon itself, which then takes a notch higher as the dramatic arrangements start to enter the view with Dan’s lovely harmonies. Arnalds’ repertoire can be witnessed clearly as he brings both the compelling and intriguing elements together, as Only the Winds builds up gradually to the inevitability of an approaching storm. Old Skin addresses Dan’s vocal capability almost quite excellently, highlighting the story of an old man’s hallucinatory journey into the youthful exuberance side of things which he may have once lost.

While Iceland continues to give birth to what quite possibly be many of the first few talented musicians alive today, Ólafur Arnalds continues to construct bars of seamless minimalistic strings with a touch of slight romance as he boldly conjures feelings of regret, longing, desire, and wanderlust. For Now I Am Winter is matured, competent, reasonably varied, and fervently stirring. This album possesses a significant difference from his previous compositions, such as Eulogy for Evolution and Living Room Songs. This album is direly impeccable in its cold, icy ways – as what winter does to any of us, it tears each part of your soulful being apart, leaving them hopelessly lying on the ground, and watch the outside world grow cold and desolate, and before you know it, For Now I Am Winter resuscitates those parts of your body, providing the ultimate sustenance in the form of hope, as spring looms. As Old Skin ceases to play “It’s not enough for me” in the background, this record is surely more than enough for me. If you crave morose, impressive beauty, well then, this is it.

 

Co-Editor’s Rating: 8.5

Jacy Ong

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." - Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian

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