Icelandic artist plays to the sunrise on the winter solstice

KURATED NO. 132
IN THIS (PANDEMIC) TIME:
TWO SOLSTICE CONCERTS
Some Kind of Peace by Olafur Arnalds
CONTENTS
  • INTRO: Some Kind of Peace
  • PLAYLISTS: On YouTube and Spotify
    – Sunrise Session 2020 (15 mins)
    – Sunrise Session 2021 (10:45 mins)
  • REVIEW: Some Kind of Peace (album) from allmusic.com
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Olafur Arnalds with his string quartet performing at sunrise in his Reykjavik studio on December 21, 2020

SOME KIND OF PEACE

Live sunrise concerts on the shortest day of the year

Iceland’s Olafur Arnalds‘ meditative and subtly adventurous explorations are soundscapes built on his neoclassical keyboard. His rich vocabulary of musical genres and textures showcase a special musician with ears open to possibility. His work ranges from acoustic – piano, strings and occasional vocals – to electronic. He blends the two with atmospheric and ambient sounds incorporating loops and beats. Arnalds’ compositions are gentle, spacious and unhurried. Often they invite calm and contemplation.

His first recorded work came at age 18 with a couple of tracks written for a German metal band in 2004. Since then his music has evolved. He’s scored award-winning film and television soundtracks, recorded five of his own albums plus numerous collaborations and side projects.

Playing to the winter solstice in Reykjavik

A few days ago Arnalds presented his second live recording on the winter solstice from his studio in Reykjavik. He started the tradition last year playing a short set of music from the 2020 release Some Kind of Peace. That session featured a string quartet and German singer JFDR. This year’s edition features singer Josin and the Reykjavik Recording Orchestra. Both short concerts are available on YouTube. The first is on Spotify.

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Kris Sig Plastic V3
24 December 2021

PLAYLIST

On YouTube

On Spotify

REVIEW

Some Kind of Peace

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by Marcy Donelson / allmusic.com [-]

With 2018’s re:member, composer Ólafur Arnalds pushed technological boundaries, using custom software and an algorithm as a major part of its design to trigger two player pianos with his own live keyboard work. The album’s blue-shaded cover art suggested the paper punch-hole patterns of such programming. Two years later, some kind of peace features a similarly blue-tinted cover, this time a close-up of Arnalds‘ face. A more-personal album inspired by a friend’s comment that we can’t control what life brings, only our own reactions to it, its songs share themes of human vulnerability.

There’s still an electronic presence on the album, which also relies heavily on piano as well as strings. The twinkling first track, “Loom,” is one of three collaborative entries, this one featuring electronic artist Bonobo. Soft, distorted keyboard and bell-like piano timbres, bass, and high-pitched voice samples paint a wistful, rhythmic harmonic palette on the song, which closes on the delicate interplay between piano and strings. Almost club-friendly but decidedly soft-spoken, it’s joined by two other songs, “The Bottom Line” with Josin, and “Back to the Sky,” which features a brittle, cracking vocal delivery by Icelandic singer JFDR. She’s supported on the track by intimate strings, spare, downtempo beats, and sustained tones that blend in with the strings.

Appearing midway through the mostly instrumental track list, it includes the lines “Then when stars align/With some kind of peace/I could be loved by you.” The instrumentals range from “Woven Song,” a borderline sprightly piano piece with strings and a sample of an icaro (a South American healing song), to solo piano works like the sentimental “We Contain Multitudes.” Even with the occasional programmed drums, some kind of peace is a consistently tranquil set, with enough shape and variety to the tracks to stave off ambient or easy listening claims.