So three days of little sleep have begun to take a physical and mental toll on me. We started the day off by heading out to the otherworldly Blue Lagoon for a bit of “relaxation.” Believe you me, those were the best 20 minutes of relaxation I’ve had in a very, very long time, but while the rest of the group stayed and enjoyed this geothermal wonder, I was back on the bus heading for the beautiful new venue Harpa, in Downtown Reykjavík, for an interview with Composer Ólafur Arnalds after his sound check for that night’s performance.
Sitting down with this mastermind of classical and electronica was exactly what I hoped it would be. He was very friendly and at points very soft-spoken for someone whose music is powerful and loud in its own unique way. We discussed everything from his start in music; his life as a rock and punk drummer as well as his brand new record “Living Room Songs” released just a week before the Airwaves festival kicked off.
After we concluded the interview, I began to wander the streets of Reykjavík like I had done for the previous two days and made my way back to the hotel to rest up for a few hours before heading back out to the show.
Harpa in itself is a place of immense modern beauty, and to see the performance Ólafur gave in this new building really fit quite well. Arnalds took control of the audience from the very first note by starting his set with “Þú Ert Sólin,” “Þú Ert Jörðin,” and “Tunglið” from his last LP …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness, moving from one beautiful arrangement to the next in seamless succession, and using stunning light flashes that would sink up with the electronics, and beautiful projected backdrops of birds, fishing ships and a mobile with whales, birds and other things that were uniquely Icelandic. Arnalds fit in songs like “Fok” and “Haust” from his 2008 release Variations of Static, along with closing the show with “3055” from his 2007 debut Eulogy for Evolution.
The only problem I had with the set was it wasn’t long enough. I know, I know, it’s a festival and you need to fit all the artists in. But when you give Ólafur Arnalds more than a 40-minute time frame to show you every trick up his sleeve, he will destroy you – in a good way! Well his music will at least, but you get the idea.
Ólafur Arnalds at Harpa in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland was the highlight of my trip to Iceland Airwaves. He’s an amazing performer and composer, and an extremely nice human being. You need to experience Iceland and all the amazing music that comes from this tiny island country in the Northern Atlantic because it will change you in more ways than you can count.
Here’s a sneak peek into my interview with Ólafur from Harpa on 10/15/2011. Stay tuned for a produced interview with Ólafur Arnalds.