Published Nov 14, 2014There must be something in the water in Iceland. The experimentation of regional visionaries such as Björk and Sigur Rós has catapulted atmospheric music into the mainstream, or at least to the fringes where it can be found by anyone surfing on a computer. The latest Icelandic import is Óbó (Ólafur Björn Ólafsson), a man whose name and sound may be familiar to followers of Sigur Rós, as he is the band's touring keyboardist. On his debut album, Innhverfi, Óbó softly experiments with a number of instruments and resonances to create beautiful portraits.
From one track to the next, Óbó hardly sticks to a single mode. The principal constant throughout is the glacially slow vocals that seem to be spoken in close proximity to the listener's ear, which allows one to hear all the complex syllables that compose the mother tongue of Icelanders. But variation is what makes the record so interesting. It hardly follows any classical concepts of composition, and features a myriad of instruments that somehow maintain a volume that barely elevates above a whisper. Fluctuating double bass notes that wax and wane, prolonged organ notes, electric jazz piano, nylon guitar and brush snare, are among the diverse array of instruments that Óbó seemingly effortlessly unifies into a single melodic piece of music.
The multi-talented musician has without a doubt learned from the best, but still leaves much to be desired in the way of cinematic tension. The calm pastoral feelings of the music are satisfying, yet there remains a level of anticipation for what Óbó may be able to provide in the next release — hopefully, more passion and climax to highlight the drama possible in his music. (Morr)