Much like the new varying styles of dubstep or more obvious, electronic music in all its shapes and sizes, classical music has recently seen a boom in their trade. The genre is usually associated with background music that is mostly used for studying or succinctly, as background music. But lately, with a new set of composers that are not only modern and innovative, but in their prime, the music seen in the classical field is challenging and gripping: your best assets.
Icelandic-born Ólafur Arnalds fits this mold as a wunderkind classical composer in his mid-twenties that is creating gorgeously layered music. The setting for …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness seems simple enough but Arnalds goes one step further: combining it with post-rock and its immeasurable possibilities. On “Kjurrt” he intrepidly tip-toes around a singular piano line that appears to be nothing more than a dripping water faucet before sequencing his change with creative force. Revealing the sounds of raindrops, as heard from the inside walls, he introduces a drum set, bass and electric guitar on “Gleypa okkur,” with such ease. Each song is an accompaniment piece to each other and they each share common threads that unite them; all the while Arnalds’ pace is superb.
And no kidding, there are various moments throughout the album’s flow and sequencing that you think to yourself, “Wait a second, this is a 23-year old making this music?” Even after a wealthy amount of music under his belt, this is nothing more than a young musician that just happens to love music. Some people just have it and Arnalds is definitely skillfully talented and gifted; it permeates over every note on …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness.
There’s no denying that the subject matter on here is anything short of bleak either. Even when the song titles are in his native tongue, like as with “Loftið verður skyndilega kalt.” It’s menacing melody line that recalls Chopin’s sonatas and Beethoven’s ear for melody rides on the song’s wave as if it simply belongs there. The violin creeps in to counter but mostly, both are minor-driven sounds that reveal dissonance and ominous times.
Subject matter or not, Found Songs was where attention should’ve been placed; in other words, a long time ago. Most of the music on …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness is not stylistically dissimilar from his previous works, albeit it does hone in on his strengths a bit more clearly. Instead of letting the music fool you, Arnalds is composed in presenting works that are full-bodied and mesmerizing. The opening two songs are a ravishing way to open things and through every decision: every string, every piano note, every downbeat; this is lush music.
Through nine works that add up as one major one, the music that Arnalds has crafted is a true testament of spirit. And his successful endeavors have led to a pure fruition in the essence that everything always seems to be pushing forward. Not all music was meant to be heard at the front of the beat and classical music is no different. Arnalds realizes this and embraces it, with a fantastic album that is definitely, challenging and gripping.