Ólafur Arnalds: Bringing ‘Winter’ To Austin

Amid the massive roster of artists appearing at the recent South By Southwest music conference in Austin—an event typically featuring a mix of trendy rock bands, esoteric hiphoppers and Americana-inspired roots rockers—was one particularly unusual booking. And that would be Ólafur Arnalds—a young, neo-classical composer whose music does not easily fit into any played-out category.

Arnalds, a 26-year-old multi-instrumentalist from Mosfellsbær, Iceland, releases his latest album here this week on Mercury Classics, and it’s absolutely stunning. Titled For Now I Am Winter, the album features Arnalds’ innovative instrumental work bolstered by orchestral arrangements from composer Nico Muhly and—a first for the artist—four vocal tracks featuring Icelandic vocalist Arnor Dan. It’s an album likely to appeal to music fans of all sorts--classical, jazz, electronic, experimental rock—and it provides ample evidence why Arnalds’ appealing music has already appeared on the soundtracks of many popular film and television soundtracks.

Considering Arnalds’ very early musical beginnings as a drummer in a hardcore punk band, it did not seem too outlandish when he and his band walked into Y! Music’s Austin headquarters carrying their instruments fully ready to play—but considering the instruments involved, hardcore punk rock was by no means what was played. Instead we heard some lovely, quiet instrumental music that captivated all in the studio—and made for one of this year’s most memorable Y! Music recording sessions. We’re sure you’ll likely agree.