Ólafur Arnalds - Variations Of Found Songs
Ólafur Arnalds is well known for combining classical instrumentation with a raw indie aesthetic to obtain compelling results. His debut album "Eulogy For Evolution", was highly praised by the media and music fans in Iceland and created quite a buzz around Europe and further afield.
After a similarly lauded follow-up EP ("Variations of Static") Arnalds recently embarked on a more experimental project known as "Found Songs", where he pledged to create and release a song every within 24 hours.
This month the album will finally get a physical release via Arnald’s label, Erased Tapes. The new album will be released on limited edition CD in Digisleeve and 10" Vinyl and will also be available for purchase as high-quality mp3s or .wav. The booklet artwork includes photos from the collaborative Found Songs Flickr group: one image was chosen for each song on the record.
IMX talk to Ólafur about Found Songs and his myriad other projects - a new “proper” album, a ballet score, making techno as Kiasmos…no wonder people want to make documentaries about him…
So talk us through your new Found Songs project - how did it come about and whose idea was it?
Well, I was having one of those nights in my apartment when i just feel endlessly inspired and keep writing nice music that doesn't necessarily fit with what I'm doing on my albums and I realized that i had quite a few song ideas that I never really had reasons to finish and release. The original idea behind Found Songs was just to make an excuse to finish those songs and let them be heard. I decided to take one week where I would look through old sketches and find melodies and ideas that I liked, finish them, record them and release them - one per day. I thought putting them up for free just made perfect sense for this project as it's not really a proper album and at the beginning I was worried they wouldn't even be proper songs.
How did you find the process? Was it gruelling? fun? A mix of the two?
It was both fun and challenging. I basically had to lock myself inside my room for a week, worked up to 18 hours per day trying to finish the songs in time. But I got a lot out of it. Putting yourself under such pressure is really good for you I think and in the end, contrary to my worries, the songs actually became proper songs, even though they were short and simple.
What were the toughest aspects from your perspective?
Writing the songs themselves wasn't so hard. I had much more problems with letting them go - I'm such a perfectionist and I would have liked to spend a few more days with each song but in the end I always just had to let them go and send them out even if they weren't "perfect".
Were you intending to release the results from the outset or was that a later decision?
The idea was in the back of my head from the beginning. And before the week started I spoke to Erased Tapes records and asked them to help me with making a website around the project and in return I'd give them the rights for a Limited Vinyl release. We didn't actually decide up on anything until after the week but the idea was definitely there the whole time.
The Flickr photo pool idea also helped make it a more communal project. Was that your idea?
Yes, it was also my idea from the beginning to keep everyone really involved with the project. To make a kind of a social/art experiment. The Flickr idea was a part of that and also how I kept everyone posted on my progress with each song on Twitter. I even asked people for help and inspiration if I got stuck. In the end we used our favourite Flickr submissions for the booklet of the physical release of Found Songs.
You’re also working on a new “proper” album – what can you tell us about that?
I'm very excited about that. Unfortunately it's still a while until the release. I'm guessing early 2010, but I think it will be great. It's definitely more mainstream than the other ones. I'm incorporating even more instruments and elements from pop music but still maintaining the classical foundation. Barði Jóhansson (of Bang Gang / Lady & Bird) is co-producing it with me so that definitely adds an interesting perspective. There are more songs in the vein of "3055" from Eulogy...
And your techno side project Kiasmos, what’s the latest with that?
That's been really taking off lately. In fact I just arrived from the Faroe Islands where we did two DJ sets and a live set for Undirbeat at this big festival they have there every year. We recently released a split 12" vinyl with Rival Consoles which got really good reviews, though some of them were of course bound to complain about the lack of piano and strings. We have been writing material for an EP and have got a few exciting things coming up, including some European tour dates.
You’ve recently been commissioned to write a ballet score for Wayne McGregor's Dyad 1909 – how did that come about?
He told me he picked up a flyer at Barbican Hall in London for my show there last year and has had me in mind ever since. He told me he had been warming up and practicing to my music for the last few months, which is quite funny cause I have been watching his works a lot on YouTube for the last few months as well, drooling over his talent. We were actually completely unaware of each other but he knows the PR girl at Erased Tapes (who is also a choreographer) and asked her to get him in touch with me a few weeks ago. Two days later it was confirmed.
Is this the first ballet or theatre score you’ve written?
Yeah it's my first. I'm very excited about it, not only because Wayne is my favourite choreographer (I'm quite into contemporary dance) but this should also be a great experience and make me better as an artist in the end. Not to mention the new audience I will be able to reach. They will take the piece on tour around the world and I will be playing live at many of the shows with them. I'm just starting to write now so I have actually yet to see how exactly I will approach it, but it will include some of my older works as well as brand new material.
And last but not least, you have a documentary coming out too….
It was actually premiered at Gimli Film Festival in Canada this week! It's nothing huge. My good friend Gussi, a young, very talented film maker here in Iceland asked me if he could make a documentary about me. It's just over 20 minutes. He followed us on tour in the UK for a couple of weeks, so it's basically just a movie about life on tour, filled with interviews and music. I'm quite happy with it actually - it's personal and "cozy”.
All of which begs the question: where do you manage to fit in time to SLEEP?
I don't know. Let me know if you find out ‘cause I could really do with some!
"Marching Bands of Manhattan" Cover @ venue 't Smiske, Asse, Belgium
Ólafur Arnalds @ MySpace
Source: Iceland Music Export IMX