ÓlLAFUR ARNALDS – ” re:member “

Posted: September 4, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: ,

Contemporary classical music has seen a sharp peak in popularity over the past five years. Spurred on in large part by the advent of playists for study or work on streaming platforms. At the forefront of the genre’s revival is Icelandic composer and producer Ólafur Arnalds. Arnalds amassed plenty of popular praise for his role in avant-garde dance group Kiasmos. His new album re:member sets out to tackle an issue which has plagued the new school of contemporary classical composers, that of expanding and evolving the boundaries of the genre without losing its sense of self.

Considering its reliance on western art style melodic composition and its relatively ambient production aesthetic, the temptation of making the music sound “bigger” or more grandiose runs the risk of quashing the elements which make it popular in the first place. These are a strong sense of emotion, subdued instrumental accompaniment and heavy use of instrumental layering.

On his fourth studio release, Arnalds has showcased a path toward progress. This comes in the form of Stratus, a piece of audio software Arnalds helped to co-write. Taking the input from his piano and running it through a series of algorithms and variable, the software generates chord progressions and melodic motifs. This results in much of the music on re:member having a distinctly artificial quality. Whether it be murky chords on ‘unfold’ or the translucent harmony on ‘inconsist’.

It’s a groundbreaking piece of software which contributes to a lot of the album’s best moments. Huge credit must be given to the artist for literally designing and creating the software from the ground up. That alone justifies a proper listen to re:member. The fact that the music throughout it is so hauntingly beautiful is just the cherry atop the cake.

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