Ólafur Arnalds: 'I wanted the album to sound like the process, full of excitement and wonder'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 5 March 2019
Icelandic composer discusses his fourth solo record, innovative use of technology and upcoming shows
Ólafur Arnalds' striking blend of styles and unconventional compositional techniques have earned him a fanbase that similarly traverse genre and form, as far as musical tastes go. The Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer is continually praised for his multi-layered approach and impressive output, which includes the score and end-credits track for the 2013 ITV series Broadchurch, for which he won a BAFTA, and an admirable number of studio albums, soundtracks, collections and collaborations under his belt. His latest release, fourth solo record Re:member, is a perfect example of his desire to push forward with new ideas and innovations, with tracks that veer towards restraint one minute, before heading off on an expansive journey of varying soundscapes the next.
'This is my breaking out-of-a-shell album,' he previously said of the album. 'It's me taking the raw influences that I have from all these different musical genres and not filtering them. It explores the creative process and how one can manipulate that to get out of the circle of expectations and habit.' As Arnalds currently tours Europe in support of the album, we catch up with him to hear more about Re:member and the creative process behind the minimalist and experimental record.
You've been touring quite extensively recently, how have people responded to your newer material?
It's been great! I always enjoy taking new material on the road where we get the chance to develop them further. The album is one thing, a snapshot of what the songs were at that time, but they are really more like a living organism and keep evolving every night we play.
How did you find the process of putting together re:member? Was there a particular feel or thematic concept you were aiming for?
I wanted the album to sound like the process, full of excitement and wonder, mirroring my feelings while I made these songs. I was searching for the feeling of being completely 'free', something I have only ever experienced when I'm deep into the creative process. That's when all the good stuff happens.
What exactly is Stratus and how does it feed into this album? What were the reasons behind implementing the software now?
Stratus is a software that I designed with my friend Halldór Eldjárn that controls two player pianos that react to what I play on a third piano. For me it was a way to make something familiar brand new and in that way jolted my creative thinking. It was a way to get out of a rut that myself and external influences had kind of got me in. We spent almost two years developing it and it's still far from perfect but it had a huge effect on the way I wrote songs for re:member. In a sense it's almost like jazz improv. I play something and the pianos respond.