The Icelandic son

The Icelandic multi-instrumentalist is bringing his neo-classical spectacle to the Cedar.

Raghav Mehta

For an artist whose music is built around such colossal sounds and seriousness, Ãìlafur ArnaldsâÄô mild-mannered demeanor is perplexing. Over the phone, Arnalds is modest, reticent and almost laconic in his speech. He is seemingly untouched by his recent brushes with international fame and lacks the typical air of superiority that so many musicians are notorious for.

But Ãílafur Arnalds is no assembly line rock star. Hailing from the debt-ridden island country of Iceland, ArnaldâÄôs neo-classical LP âÄúâĦ And They Have Escaped the Weight of DarknessâÄù is a poignant array of elegiac strings, plaintive piano and cinematic soundscapes that crescendo into eruptions of ethereal beauty.

Born and raised in Mosfellsbær, Iceland, the genesis of ArnaldâÄôs long and winding musical journey can be traced back to early training during childhood.

âÄúI started with the piano and I just hated it,âÄù Arnalds said. âÄúBut I moved on to drums because it was more rock-based.âÄù

Before immersing himself in classical compositions, Arnalds toiled in a series of Icelandic hardcore bands, performing as a drummer. On the surface, the genres seem worlds apart but Arnalds said he didnâÄôt find the musical leap to be all that challenging.

âÄúThe sound is different, but the process is really similar,âÄù Arnald said. âÄúI didnâÄôt find it to be all that difficult to adapt.âÄù

While ArnaldsâÄô neo-classical creation is bound to remind listeners of his regional peers and one-time tourmates Sigur Rós, the comparison is superficial.

There are certainly moments on âÄúâĦ And They Have Escaped the Weight of DarknessâÄù that recall the melodic post-rock of seminal releases like âÄúTakkâÄù and âÄúÃÅgætis Byrjun,âÄù but ArnaldsâÄô sonic arsenal is geared more towards creating a particular atmosphere than poppy hooks.

At the end of the day the album owes more to God Speed You! Black Emperor than its Icelandic brethren.

âÄúI donâÄôt get annoyed by [the comparison] but I donâÄôt think the comparison is all that justified,âÄù Arnalds said. âÄúThey deal with more rock-based sounds like guitars and drums. And they have vocals.âÄù

 Last Sunday Arnalds added to his recent flurry of successes at the Sundance Film Festival with the premiere of Sam LevinsonâÄôs âÄúAnother Happy DayâÄù âÄî a film Arnalds was commissioned to score.

The project was a natural fit for the composerâÄôs symphonic melodrama.

But despite having hit his stride with classical orchestrations, Arnalds refuses to limit himself to one style. To this day, he continues to perform in various hardcore bands while residing in Iceland.

âÄúI couldnâÄôt only play classical music,âÄù Arnadls said. âÄúItâÄôs like being trapped inside your house for too long. You need to get out of it eventually.âÄù