Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds shares his journey of creative growth set against the backdrop of a chaotic world in his latest album, Some Kind of Peace, writes Nick Benson.
Ólafur Arnalds is one of the most influential musicians of modern times: a multi-faceted talent, who has paved the way across the electronic and classical worlds. His latest album, Some Kind of Peace, nonetheless has the feel of a brand new chapter for Arnalds.
Within his most revealing and vulnerable work to date, listeners will find a self-confessed perfectionist grappling with the messier realities of everyday life: the possibilities of love, of settling down, and how to navigate all of that during a global pandemic. The album was half-written prior to lockdown and completed at Arnalds’ harbour studio in downtown Reykjavik. What’s emerged on Some Kind of Peace is a record about letting your guard down and ultimately what it means to be alive.
Some Kind of Peace was recently launched alongside the brand new track We Contain Multitudes. In Arnalds’ own words, We Contain Multitudes “was written at a friend’s cabin in a jungle, late at night, on a tiny electric keyboard. At the time I had spent so much time away from what I had considered home, almost setting up a separate life on the other side of the planet. My mind was going through a process of learning to live in two vastly different cultures, of recognising that within one body there are multitudes of different and often contradictory facets of personality. The song remains a reminder that our minds are not constants, the self is ever evolving.”
More than anything he’s ever made, Some Kind of Peace is the story of Arnalds’ life – and there is quite the life-story to tell.
Arnalds started out writing compositions for a German metal band, before supporting the popular Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós and forging an oeuvre full of innovations. His 2007 debut album documented life’s journey from birth to death, with projects ever since ranging from 2016’s Island Songs (seven songs made in seven different Icelandic towns, in seven days) to forming one-half of the experimental techno duo, Kiasmos.
Having collaborated extensively with German pianist/composer Nils Frahm, Arnalds’ last album – re:member – proved a technological triumph – it featured his ground-breaking, self-playing and semi-generative Stratus Pianos. A 140+ date world tour followed, which saw Arnalds sell-out venues ranging from the Royal Albert Hall and his own suitably genre-bending music festival OPIA at Southbank Centre. Few contemporary acts, after all, would be as at home covering Iggy Pop’s show on 6Music as they are composing dance scores for Wayne McGregor at Sadler’s Wells, winning an BAFTA for his work on Broadchurch, or landing an Emmy nomination late last year for his title theme to Defending Jacob.
Some Kind of Peace is a journey of Arnalds’ personal and creative growth, set against the backdrop of a chaotic world. Within, the listener will hear hints of those private experiences – sometimes even samples of the significant events themselves – woven into an album that is remarkable in its openness, and its beauty.
“It’s so personal that I’m still trying to find the words to talk about it,” Arnalds says today. “I felt it was important that the album would tell my story in a very honest way.”
Throughout Arnalds urges the listener to embrace all that life throws at them, and above all to react, and contemplate, to find their kind of peace.
His stunning new album would be a good place to start.
Some Kind of Peace by Ólafur Arnalds is out now on Decca Records.