Album: ÓLÖF ARNALDS – Við Og Við (One Little Indian 2009)

Not to be confused with her compatriot Olafur Arnalds (they might be related, I don’t know), Ólöf Arnalds is an Icelandic folk singer / songwriter who is also a sometime member of mùm. Við Og Við originally appeared in Iceland back in 2007. Only now is it being unleashed on a wider world. Quite why it’s taken so long beats me – perhaps it was seen as a disadvantage that such a lyrical record is sung in a language that few outside of Iceland understand.

The arrangements on the album are spare and gentle, but this isn’t an introspective misery fest. There is a brightness and sense of innocence to many of the songs. With the lyrics impenetrable to most (even an Icelandophile like me), its Ólöf’s voice and the tunes she weaves with it that hold the attention. It’s an instrument that sounds something like a cross between Vashti Bunyan and Márta Sebestyén. By turns, both fragile and powerful, childlike and wise.

The primary accompaniment is acoustic guitar, but there also subtle touches of koto, charango, woodwind, brass and strings. The orchestral swell that ends “Nattsongur” is surprisingly deep and lush compared to the skeletal instrumentation that precedes it. All but two of the songs are self-penned, and yet many sound as old as Icelandic culture itself with an almost hymnal quality to them. It’s an album for quiet moments.

Tracks
1. Englar Og Darar 2:59
2. I Nyju Husi 4:34
3. Klara 2:28
4. Við Og Við 5:39
5. Orfeus Og Evridis 5:37
6. Vittu Af Mer 4:14
7. Moldin 3:21
8. Nattsongur 4:32
9. Skjaldborg 3:03
10. Aevagomul Orkupula 2:00

Websites
www.myspace.com/olofarnalds
olofarnalds.com

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