Ólafur Arnalds at the Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ólafur Arnalds

Ólafur Arnalds at the Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA, February 5th, 2011

Feb 08, 2011 Web Exclusive Photography by Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share

“Never start a band with a computer,” moaned Ólafur Arnalds at the start of a set plagued with technical difficulties. Having successfully made his way across country, DJ, and string quartet in tow, the last date of his tour was momentarily stopped in its tracks by a geriatric Mac Book. “The sound guy is on Facebook and isn’t listening to me!” he joked, before his pleas for help were finally answered.

Where technology failed, skill succeeded and despite the tough start, it quickly became clear the show was headed towards becoming an unqualified success. The bow-tie-clad Icelandic pianist (who recently composed the soundtrack to Another Happy Day), dazzled the Echoplex crowd on Friday night. Converted to a seated concert hall for the occasion, the usually rock and roll venue was washed with beautifully constructed, nu-classical songs that eschewed melodramatic excess. Instead Arnalds’ pieces slowly unfolded over time, as simple phrasing, punctuated by unexpected orchestral counterpoints used to create timeless, melancholy soundscapes.

While the set list heavily favored last year’s sophomore release …and They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness, obscure cuts were also included, including a sweet song from the Found Songs titled “Ljósið,”—which Arnalds revealed was originally written for—and rejected by—a bathtub commercial. “I thought it was very beautiful but they didn’t think it was stupid enough,” he said wryly, noting that the difference in opinion cost him some 30 thousand dollars.

In addition to stunning instrumentals, the set included notably intense visuals, including: fog, strobe lights, and a bird-filled slide show, which ran throughout the entire evening. While incredibly cinematic, and impeccably timed, it never overpowered the music, which is saying a lot given that ratio of instrumentation to visual elements would suggest otherwise.

The impeccably chosen combination of elements cast a spell that Arnalds joyfully shattered after his final song of the evening. Clearly pleased by his performance despite its rough start, Arnalds announced his intentions to celebrate with Icelandic vodka. “I watch Californication—the parties here look wild,” he said before taking his final bow. And with that, both musician and fans a like headed into the cool February evening, to see what other magic the night would bring. (www.olafurarnalds.com)


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