Album review: Olafur Arnalds, For Now I Am Winter (Mercury Classics)


For its size, Iceland may be the most musically productive country in the world at the moment.

As well as attracting pop artists like John Grant to work with its native musicians, the country has a thriving crossover scene in which performers blur the divide between classical and other forms.

Olafur Arnalds' third album, For Now I Am Winter, is an exemplary suite of Icelandic music, blending American minimalist techniques with European sensibilities. Simple, cyclical piano figures are haunted by string arrangements in “Sudden Throw” and “Only the Winds”; staccato violin parts are interleaved like jigsaw puzzles in “Hands, Be Still” and “Reclaim”, with Nico Muhly's orchestrations anchored by discreet but propulsive drum programmes.

Download: Sudden Throw; Brim; Reclaim