BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Like Terry Riley, to whom he might best be compared, Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds specialises in using minimalist techniques to create maximum affect. His new entry, For Now I Am Winter appears, at first encounter, to be as obtuse as its title suggests, a delicate weave of supple piano notes and an imposing wash of strings that create a variety of orchestral effects. Nevertheless, beneath this often haunting and harrowing veneer, there are delicate textures waiting to be uncovered, swept along by the odd kinetic pulse and all sorts of unusual effects.
Take, for example, what appears to be the sound of water gushing from an urn on “This Place Was a Shelter,” or the heavy scratched rhythms that begin on “Brim” before transitioning to a ragtime romp and eventually settling into more serene settings. Arnalds enlists Icelandic vocalist Árnor Dan to sing and pen the lyrics. his brooding vocals adding an added sense of sobriety on “Reclaim,” “A Stutter” and the title track in particular. The results meld as mood music of the highest variety — dense yet delicate, edgy and yet elegiac. Traditionalists ought to note; this is hardly music of the hum-along variety. And yet at the same time, once immersed, it’s all but impossible to ignore.
DOWNLOAD: “For Now I Am Winter,” “Brim,” “This Place Was a Shelter”