Daníel Bjarnason - Over Light Earth (4 stars)

An unearthly piece of modern classical composition inspired by Rothko and Pollock

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Daníel Bjarnason - Over Light Earth

(Bedroom Community)

This unearthly record by award-winning Icelandic artist Daníel Bjarnason is as ghostly and ethereal as the album artwork. Full-bodied soundscapes blend with half-harmonised snippets to create something complete, yet only partly tangible. Working closely with fellow Bedroom Community artist Valgeir Sigurðsson, as well as engineer Paul Evans and the newly formed Reykjavík Sinfonia, Bjarnason has emotively crafted together an album of suspenseful majesty.

Set apart from conventional orchestral recordings, Over Light Earth utilises meticulous multitrackin to reflect the disparate tones and rhythmic shifts. The influence of the so-called New York School of painters such as Rothko and Pollock are evident in the multi-textured approach to each piece, with canvases 'No.9 (Dark Over Light Earth)' and 'Number 1, 1949' inspiring the first two movements of the album. Both paintings have contrasting hues of black and orange, symbolic perhaps of the duality of day and night, and wonderfully expressed through Bjarnason’s compositions as soft and subtle melodies juxtaposed against brooding crescendos.

The album is separated into three sections, dubbed ‘Over Light Earth’, ‘Emergence’, and ‘Solitudes’. The first, directly referencing Rothko’s work, combines traditional string instruments with electronically modified tones that resemble the fading blips and echoes of a satellite drifting in space, and evokes a more literal interpretation of the title. ‘Emergence’ is characterised by diffident gestures and shadows, blending into one another and giving the listener an sonic glimpse into a shape, duly perceived and emerging slowly throughout every bar. The final phase, ‘Solitudes’, is in fact Bjarnason’s first piano concerto, manipulated electronically by Sigurðsson and Australian-born composer and producer Ben Frost. The muffled piano strings in ‘Holy’ create something closer to percussion than what you would expect to hear in a piano concerto, but the syncopated vitality it lends to the material ties the abstracted album together and truly emphasised Bjarnason’s gift for structure, finding order in chaos, and the whole in the incomplete.

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