Ólafur Arnalds-Eulogy For Evolution.

Label: Erased Tapes Records.

When most people reach the age of thirty, it’s a time when they take stock, and reflect on what they’ve achieved so far. When composer, multi-instrumentalist and BAFTA-award- winning producer Ólafur Arnalds looked back at the first thirty years of his life, there was much to celebrate. He was now a successful soundtrack composer and had already released three critically acclaimed solo albums. 

This included his ambitious and cerebral debut album Eulogy For Evolution, which was released by Erased Tapes Records on the ‘1st’ of October 2007. It was written while Ólafur Arnalds was till a teenager, and documents the journey of life, from birth to death. By the time Eulogy For Evolution was released to plaudits and praise, Ólafur Arnalds was approaching his twenty-first birthday. Critics and cultural commentators were astounded than someone so young could record such a profound album. 

Ten years later, and thirty year old Ólafur Arnalds’ Magnus Opus has been reissued by Erased Tapes Records. This isn’t just a straightforward reissue though. Eulogy For Evolution has been restored with the help of some of Ólafur Arnalds’ friends. Ólafur Arnalds decided to remix Eulogy For Evolution and the album has been remastered by Nils Frahm. Even the album cover has been given a makeover, by Torsten Posselt at FELD. It’s been redesigned and enhanced using the original photographs taken by Stuart Bailes during a trip to Ólafur’s home in Iceland in 2007. Once all this was completed, the newly remastered and remixed version of Eulogy For Evolution was released recently. This is a reminder of Ólafur Arnalds’ finest hour Eulogy For Evolution.

Ólafur Arnalds was born in Mosfellsbær, Iceland on the ‘3rd’ of November 1986. Growing up, Ólafur Arnalds immersed himself in music and was talented multi-instrumentalist. However, when Ólafur Arnalds made his first tentative steps into the world of music he as a drummer. 

By then, the vibrant Icelandic music scene was thriving and Ólafur Arnalds was playing drums in a hardcore band. Just like most young musicians, Ólafur Arnalds was looking for to make a breakthrough. This came sooner than he had expected, and in  a rather unexpected way. 

In 2004, the German metal band Heaven Shall Burn, announced that they were about embark upon an Icelandic tour. They were one of Ólafur Arnalds’ favourite bands and he was one of the lucky one who secured a ticket to the concerts. After that, it was a case of waiting for the day of the concert to arrive. On the day of the concert, Ólafur Arnalds took with him a demo tape he had recorded at home. It featured extremely dramatic progressive rock songs that featured computerised strings and piano. This he gave to one of Heaven Shall Burn after the concert.

A few months after Ólafur Arnalds saw Heaven Shall Burn, the band contacted him, and asked if he could write some intros and outros for their new album Antigone. There was a catch though. The intros and outros could only feature piano and strings. This was a challenge for eighteen year old Ólafur Arnalds, and lead to him writing his first classical compositions.

They featured on Heaven Shall Burn’s album Antigone, which was released in April 2004. Antigone was well received across Europe and led to the break that he had been waiting for. 

Later, in 2004, Ólafur Arnalds received a phone call from Erased Tapes Records asking if he would like to write, record and release an album of compositions like the intros and outros on Antigone? This wasn’t something that Ólafur Arnalds had considered, but he wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to record what became his debut album Eulogy For Evolution.

The music that Ólafur Arnalds would write, record and produce for Eulogy For Evolution was very different to the music he had been making up until then. He was a drummer in a hardcore band,  when he saw  Heaven Shall Burn. Now the eighteen year old was moving in a very different direction. 

Eulogy For Evolution.

It took Ólafur Arnalds the best part of three years to write, record and produce the eight tracks that became Eulogy For Evolution. He was only seventeen when he began writing the eight tracks that featured on Eulogy For Evolution.

When it came time to record Eulogy For Evolution, multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds became a one man rhythm section, playing drums, bass and piano. He also played melodica, organ and piano, which would play a leading role on Eulogy For Evolution. So would the string quartet. It featured Guðmundur Kristmundsson on viola and violinists Gréta Salome, Olga Bjork Ólafsdottir and  Roland Hartwell. The combination of the string quartet and piano would prove a potent one when Eulogy For Evolution was released.

Ólafur Arnalds’s debut album Eulogy For Evolution was eventually released to widespread critical acclaim by Erased Tapes Records on October the ‘1st’ 2007. By then, twenty year old Ólafur Arnalds had just written what was essentially an ambitious and thought-provoking concept album.

Eulogy For Evolution was a concept album with a difference though; and documents the journey of life, from birth right through to death.  It was recorded by Ólafur Arnalds in the neoclassical style, which occasional departures towards ambient and avant-garde music on this ambitious and cerebral opus. 

Playing leading roles in the sound and success of Eulogy For Evolution, it’s Ólafur Arnalds’ piano and the swathes of strings which augment it, and sometimes, take centre-stage. They play their part in the spartan, understated arrangements. Mostly, they’re slow and sometimes spacious, which allows time for reflection and rumination on the meaning of the music. Always, there’s a cinematic quality to the music on Eulogy For Evolution, and it’s no surprise that Ólafur Arnalds went on to write soundtracks. Eulogy For Evolution sounds like the soundtrack to a film as it unfolds over forty magical minutes.

Always, the music on Eulogy For Evolution is thought-provoking and cerebral. Partly, this is  due to the uncluttered, understated and minimalist arrangements. Mostly they’re slow, spacious and invite reflection, as the music moves from emotive and thoughtful on Boundaries to hopeful and sometimes stirring on (Eulogy For Evolution). From there, Ólafur Arnalds continues to replicate the cycle of life using his musical palette. The result is music that veers between beautiful, ethereal, elegiac and lush to rueful, wistful and melancholy, right through to hopeful, spirited, stirring and uplifting. Occasionally, the music becomes haunting and tugs at the heartstrings. This includes on 3055, where drums provide the heartbeat as strings sweep and swirl. Then Vemeer which closes Eulogy For Evolution, takes a series of twists and turns. It starts off slow and thoughtful before becoming rocky, spirited, uplifting and urgent. Later, the tempo drops and an organ plays adding a pensive, ruminative sound as Ólafur Arnalds’ timeless and ambitious debut album Eulogy For Evolution draws to a close.

For twenty year old Ólafur Arnalds, the release of Eulogy For Evolution on ‘1st’ of October 2007 was the start of a successful career as a composer, musician and producer. By the time Ólafur Arnalds returned with his sophomore album And They Have Escaped The Weight of Darkness in 2010, he was successfully juggling his solo career with a career writing soundtracks.

Ólafur Arnalds made his soundtrack debut in 2009 when he wrote the score to Dyad 1909. A year later in 2010, he provided the soundtrack to Blinky TM and Jitters. Soon, Ólafur Arnalds was rubbing shoulders with Hollywood greats like Kate Bosworth and Demi Moore when he contributed the soundtrack to Another Happy Day in 2012. However, the film wasn’t a classic and the most memorable thing was Ólafur Arnalds’ soundtrack.

In 2013, Ólafur Arnalds returned with his third album For Now I Am Winter in 2013. It was his first solo album in three years. For Now I Am Winter received the same praise and plaudits as And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness three years earlier. Since then, Ólafur Arnalds has concentrated on writing soundtracks.

The next film Ólafur Arnalds was involved with was Gimme Shelter, which was produced and directed by Ronald Krauss. Gimme Shelter made its debut at the Heartland Film Festival on October ’17th’ 2013, and opened in America cinemas on January ’24th’ 2014. By then, word was spreading about the young and up-and-coming Ólafur Arnalds.

By the end of 2014, Ólafur Arnalds was award-winning composer. He was involved with two high-profile soundtracks during 2014. The first was the soundtrack to the Icelandic film Life In A Fishbowl). It was released in May 2014, and later, was nominated for 87th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Later in 2014, Ólafur Arnalds’ soundtrack to the British television series Broadchurch won a BAFTA for the Best Original Music. For Ólafur Arnalds this was the highlight of his career writing soundtracks.

Since then, Ólafur Arnalds has collaborated on a variety of other projects. This includes The Chopin Project with Alice Sara Ott in 2015. Ólafur Arnalds also collaborated on a trio of singles with Berlin based musician, composer and record producer based Nils Frahm between 2015 and 2016. Then in 2016, Ólafur Arnalds collaborated on a single with Icelandic singer and musician Arnór Dan. More recently, Ólafur Arnalds has been working on the reissue Eulogy For Evolution which was recently remastered and reissued by Erased Tapes Records. 

When Ólafur Arnalds released Eulogy For Evolution ten years ago in 2007, it was his debut album. It was an ambitious and cerebral  debut album which documents the journey of life, from birth to death. Eulogy For Evolution was a thought-provoking and cinematic  concept album that ten years later is still regarded as a timeless genre classic and Ólafur Arnalds’ finest hour.

Ólafur Arnalds-Eulogy For Evolution.

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