Once a hardcore/metal drummer, Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds is a somewhat unexpected neo-classical multi-instrumentalist. His four track The Winter EP, however, lacks the violence of his band days and showcases beautiful instrument work flawlessly intertwined with electronic beats.
Opener ‘Only The Winds,’ fragile as thin ice and delicate as the falling snow itself, best captures the feel of the EP’s title, but doesn’t convey a sense of sadness as other “chilly” works often tend to do. From the trailing end comes the bright and playful ‘Old Skin,’ featuring vocalist Arnor Dan (a first for Arnalds). Dan’s beautiful voice soars high and strong, taking the listener with it, accompanied expertly and complimented perfectly by Arnalds’ composition of quick, light classical instruments and a driving beat.
‘We (Too) Shall Rest,’ too weak to serve as a standalone track, functions as a sad, stringy interlude, a break before the dark piano intro to ‘This Place Was A Shelter.’ For the finale, Arnalds goes in an entirely different direction, electronic splashes echoing behind terse strings, building tension until the electronic rhythm comes in, violins squealing overhead, the pacing set perfectly to build and release suspense.
In a way, the four songs could be seen as a disjointed effort, the work of a composer unsure of the direction in which he wishes to go. But for their differences in tone and tempo and instrumentation, they complement each other quite well, instead showing Arnalds’ flexibility more than his indecision. If the execution of this EP is any indication, the full-length album For Now I Am Winter is definitely something to look out for.