Anyone remember Explosions in the Sky’s 2005 album, ‘The Rescue’? More importantly, does anyone remember the concept behind that record? Well if you don’t, basically the band withdrew themselves from the world for eight days and on each day composed and recorded one track and named them ‘Day One’, ‘Day Two’, Day Three’... Now , in 2009, Icelandic classical/post-rock prodigy Olafur Arnalds has done the same thing, only he recorded only a week’s worth of material (that’s 7 tracks); and also, his album ‘Found Songs’ sounds very different to the aforementioned Texan post-rock titans. Instead, it has more in common with Arnalds’ fellow countrymen, Sigur Ros, as well as his previous works, ‘Eulogy for Evolution’ and ‘Variations of Static’.
‘Found Songs’ comprises of seven songs, most of which revolve around a minimalist piano riff in a minor key, beautifully recorded to give that trademark cold
sound found on his earlier albums. As well as being minimalist in texture, the tracks are also minimalist in structure. Given that Arnalds allowed himself only 24 hours to write and then record each track they are all reasonably short and do not feature too much variation from the main motif. This can make for a monotonous listen at times, particularly in ‘Lost Song’
which plods along uneventfully – even the added string section does not particularly add much to the track. However, on tracks such as the fragile, cyclical ‘Romance’
it works quite nicely as you are forced to focus on the haunting melody so much that it entrances you.
The piano riffs are often accompanied by soft atmospheric synths which add another layer to the track, though their role is often so unobtrusive that the track remains minimalist. They, like the piano riffs themselves, have a frosty ambience to them and so they are very complementary. ‘Faun’
are exceptions though, as the former’s accompaniment to the softly waltzing piano are sorrowful violins rising and falling beautifully, making it one of, if not the best track on the album; while the latter’s accompaniment arrives late, again being violins, rising sharper this time.
The minimalist classical brand of post-rock that Arnalds plays on ‘Found Songs’ makes for a very pretty, relaxing, and often moving listen. The short durations of the album’s seven tracks are both a positive feature and a negative one: positive, because they suit this kind of composition very well; negative, because they do not allow the tracks to expand as much as you may like them to. They are also to be expected considering the nature in which the album was birthed. This considered, it is also hard to say whether the stylistic nature of ‘Found Songs’ is going to be representative of his future work or not. You can only hope that it will be at least as good as this.