Iceland's favourite new classical music composer Ólafur Arnalds is celebrating the tenth anniversary of his seminal debut Eulogy For Evolution with a re-release courtesy of Erased Tapes.
It's still hard to believe he produced such an extraordinary album at just 20 years of age. The sophisticated romanticism on display here is near heartbreaking. That a young man best known for hardcore drumming at the time could produce such a graceful recording is enough to turn a classical music snob into a new classical music adventurer.
Incredibly, Arnalds wrote these works at 18, after his uncle passed away at about the same time the gentleman's first grandson was born. The album was dedicated to his memory, and to the "circle of life," as Arnalds describes it.
The original masters have been given a fresh coat of paint and remastered by Nils Frahm. The result is a high-quality, minor masterpiece that reminds us how Arnalds came to be a collaborator with (and clearly, an influence on) Sigur Rós at such a young age.
Interestingly, given the subject matter, all of the pieces are numbered rather than titled. The album opens with the mournful strings and piano solo of "0040." The piece is beautifully composed and sincerely moving.
The one that might stick with you most, though, is "3055." Its first three minutes are delicately cinematic, and as it begins to build, the mood lifts and the cyclical theme of the work reveals itself clearly. It's all presented with the kind of power and maturity that Hollywood so often tries to achieve but only ever ends up mimicking.
Another favourite comes at the album's close. The two-and-a-half-minute "3704/3837" switches abruptly from gentle piano to full-on thrash classical (if only there was such a thing). Its progression from there is as good a reminder as any that Arnalds — still just 30 — has a bright future ahead. (Erased Tapes)