I would describe the Icelandic music scene as a rainbow, if you just put the black in the rainbow and it would be perfect the Icelandic music scene. Because it’s everything. I mean there’s a guy playing in a black metal band, playing keyboards for some electronic bands and everybody knows each other and the competition is healthy. There’s always bad-talk and all that stuff. The music is great, everybody puts everything into the music. There are very individual artistic needs in every band. It’s different, nobody is copying another Icelandic band. You just have to find your root and grow your flower – something like that (Krummi Björgvinsson)
In 2003 Ólafur Arnalds and his mates from band Gavin Portland (Kolbeinn Kolli Þorgeirsson and Þórir Georg Jónsson), also Loftur Einarsson and Ingi Ernir Árnason called another band up – Fighting Shit straight from… Húsavík, where Ólafur went with I Adapt. This time sound of the group was more trashcore and the boys wanted to play at least one gig per year. Óli could proudly say about himself a main composer, because he was the author of most songs and some of them were written originally on piano. He admitted in the interview with Sonic Iceland that classical music education let him to write unique hardcore songs. The band finished career, when Kolli moved out to London but til 2006 they released four albums. In solo project of Þórir – My Summer As A Salvation Soldier – Ólafur Arnalds took care as a guest not only of guitar or piano, but also of banjo.
In his career Óli had appeared on stage also with Celestine since about 2006. This is actually a band, which probably all people connected with hardcore music scene of Reykjavík played in. The members had ambitious plans, wanted to play a lot of gigs and record a new material. Ólafur noticed that in some way he made slowlier an evolution of Celestine, because he spent not enough time on it – he started to work on solo material then. Besides, he left marks in history of the band as a good drummer and also he helped them in recording of a debut album called At The Borders Of Arcadia as a musician, producer and… owner of his home music studio either. Here we have a fragment of Sleepless in Reykjavík episode (Icelandic version) recorded before releasing of Celestine’s debut album – a few words about the project and one song filmed by Gunnar B. Guðbjörnsson – for brave people, who are not afraid of Icelandic.
And this is how we came to the point, when Óli has been also a music producer. It’s a reason that he met among others Bloodgroup. Janus Rasmussen, a musician from Faroe Islands, has taken active part in this project. Those two guys discovered that love to minimal experimental techno joined them. In the beginning they met only on weekends for a few drinks and spent time on making new melodies with beats and different samples, but later they started to treat this fun more seriously. A minimal duo Kiasmos was born in 2007. Their work is mainly exchange of new sounds and recordings via e-mail, because usually a half of the duo is on tour. Ólafur told in the interview with The Line Of Best Fit – if you stay at home for a whole weekend, you need to go outside, even if it’s just a short walk to the park. Techno is for him something like going for a walk.
In the same time, when Ólafur put less and less energy into Celestine and started to work for Kiasmos still so unconsiously, his thoughts focused on the second and actually the most important solo project in his colourful music career. He took out of his head neo-classical sounds that made his surname famous far away from Iceland and his main instrument became again a piano. Maybe with a little addition of electronic toys. The music that he has been doing since releasing album in 2007 – Eulogy for Evolution – became so specific to him that any mention about hardcore past of Óli makes people surprised. Can a man, who laid foundations of Icelandic hardcore scene, also compose movie soundtracks (like Jitters in 2010 or Another Happy Day in 2011)?
Maybe it seems ridiculous, but Ólafur Arnalds notices a common features of classical music and hardcore. Both genres are very emotional. It goes mainly about feeling music. Of course a lot of hardcore bands have good lyrics but raucous vocal and loud guitars are mainly an emotional element. A lyric isn´t the most important here – you can read it in a booklet. Óli observes also a fact that many people, who love metal, come to his concerts so it has to exist at least for them some common element of classical music and genres like metal or hardcore.
When Ólafur doesn´t go out for a whole week from home because he records together with his friend German pianist Nils Frahm (the first EP of them called Stare, was out in April 2012), a short walk to the park is still Kiasmos, music for dancing. After 5 years of collaboration this techno duo finally plans to show its debut album to the world. So we will know quite soon – on September 24 – how sounds music, for which even authors can dance like crazy – like teenage Óli at I Adapt gigs. On horizon is visible also another soothing senses solo album of Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter.