Review Summary: "For Now I Am Winter" is a bold step forward for Ólafur, adding an impressive amount of variety into an otherwise well-established formula.
Over the course of the past 5 years, Ólafur Arnalds has established himself as one of the most promising musicians in the Icelandic music scene. His sorrowful neoclassical pieces evoked the stark minimalism of Sigur Rós, combined with the simple ambience explored by Brian Eno. Through these influences and others, Arnalds was able to create a simple, short-form take on modern classical music that had enough crossover appeal to be enjoyed by fans of post-rock, ambient, and even pop music genres.
For Now I Am Winter
is Ólafur Arnald’s latest effort and major label debut. First track “Sudden Throw” gets things underway with a typical Ólafur sound, much like that heard on 2010’s successful ...And They Escaped the Weight of Darkness
. However, this doesn’t last long before bouncy violins and a glitchy electronic beat join the fray in “Brim,” a song that sounds very different to anything else previously attempted by the Icelander. The song undergoes multiple mood and atmosphere changes, eventually settling down into the slow and mournful sound we’ve come to know and love from the man. But perhaps the most radical departure comes in the form of vocal embellishments from singer Arnór Dan in the title track. His tender voice is used sparingly, appearing in only four of the album’s twelve tracks, and it certainly isn’t the kind of jarring voice that detracts from the music. Nevertheless, it will certainly be one of the release’s biggest talking points and could be a potential turn-off for some fans.
Other highlights include “Reclaim,” which combines the newfound electronic influences with the addition of vocals, and the gorgeous post-rock inspired build-up in “Only the Winds.” The strongest vocal performance from Dan can be heard in what is perhaps the record’s most surprising song, “Old Skin.” His voice is stronger and more confident here, providing a much-needed lift from the more traditional-sounding mid-section of the album. Electronic instrumentation again comes to the fore and percussive beats provide the backbone for “This Place Was a Shelter,” before being rounded-off by the charming ambience of “Carry Me Anew.”
For Now I Am Winter
is a bold step forward for Ólafur, adding an impressive amount of variety into an otherwise well-established formula. The only question will be whether he manages to take this exciting momentum on to much greater heights in future.