Olafur Arnalds Eulogy for Evolution

Can the word "glut” be applied to something as sublime as the string ensemble? Perhaps not, but Iceland seems to have a per capita surfeit at least. Mr. Arnalds, still only 20 years old, possesses a deft ear for theme that many composers thrice his age lack. With a pensive piano as an anchor, the nine pieces operate in a suite that shoots off into dramatic or atmospheric tangents only to return to an icy, bluish home base. Unlike his Icelandic compeers Amiina and Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arnalds seems content to keep most evidence of the modern world outside his work, save the sudden ragged edit that dissects the crescendo of closing piece "3704/3837.” That piece, as well as "3055,” does make allowances for the engine of rock: drum propulsion. That these touches are restrained until late on the album make them all the more effective. They also have the retrograde effect of making the earlier pieces seem fairly staid in comparison. Still, a bias against their sad beauty might be difficult to maintain. Patient and imaginative listeners will find this a charming introduction to a new talent. (Erased Tapes)