Olafur Arnalds: For Now I Am Winter

winterOlafur Arnalds
For Now I Am Winter
(Mercury Classics)

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In a perfect world, Olafur Arnalds’ music is playing after the apocalypse. With its mix of neo-classical and electronic instrumentation, Arnalds’ new album, For Now I Am Winter, is at once deeply haunting and captivating.

This is the third album from 26-year-old Arnalds, an Icelandic, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Released on Universal Music’s Mercury Classics label, the album features Danish guest vocalist Arnór Dan.

Deeply cinematic, the album reminds me of artists like Nico Muhly and Sigúr Ros. Like those musicians, Arnalds has a painterly approach to music: each part could stand alone, but in some way is essential to the overall mood of the canvas. Versed in post-rock, classical, electronic, and (surprisingly) heavy metal, Arnalds’ creates introspective music, like the scrappy Cello duo with electronic effects and beats on “Brim.” James Allen of AllMusic Guide writes, “Arnalds prefers instead to repurpose old-school harmonic conventions in a new context, offering the listener a readily accessible emotional connection, but still breaking new ground.”

The songs often start from utter silence and build systematically as each part enters the soundscape. All of this is beautifully mixed, smoothly blended at times and distinct in others. The power of delicately produced music is in its pervasive mood.

For Now I Am Winter is powerfully relaxing too. I call it music of transport because it’s not just ambience or atmosphere; the music builds and goes somewhere. Listening to the piano, drum beats, and strings cycle around a short melody is like waiting to fall asleep: you imagine yourself on the cusp of many unimagined places.

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About Matthew Herzfeld

Matt Herzfeld is a freelance writer, music supervisor and musician, and serves as Music Project Manager for the French Music Office at the French Embassy in the US. He is based in New York City.
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