Ólafur Arnalds cleanses and reinvigorates with new album re:member

To become oneself again; that is the aim of Ólafur Arnalds’s fourth full-length studio album, re:member. Or maybe it is to go beyond that, as the BAFTA-winning composer has arduously spent “two years and all [his] money” to develop his Stratus software, which forms the framework of his new album. Working in collaboration with programmer, Halldór Eldjárn, Arnalds has developed a code enabling the ghostly performing of two self-playing pianos, triggered by the generative MIDI signals of his own piano, marking re:member as Arnalds’s most ambitious work to date.

The opening title track gradually pulls the stringed and synthesized tide towards shore, washing over the gently-embedded piano, before Stratus patterns delve into a crashing wave of drum grooves and rising piano melodies. The surging waters soon rescind, however, as the tranquillity of piano droplets and liquid vocals smooth over the pebbled staccato of strings on ‘unfold’, whilst the solo piano piece, ‘saman’, and the crystallised string chords of ‘brot’ provide both cleansing and warming moments of reflection and unwavering clarity.

Passing its midway point, the album turns its current towards the invigorating throbs of synth pads, rippling percussion and uplifting cello melodies on ‘ypsilon’ and ‘undir’. It becomes apparent here that Arnalds, well-known for his remarkable work for the soundtrack of Broadchurch, has embarked on the telling of his own personal story, the depiction of his own image through the purest of musical voices and gestures. Having previously returned to his teenage self through the 2017 remastering of his debut album, Eulogy for Evolution, Arnalds sets foot on his newly-evolving journey. As the album draws a close with ‘nyepi’, a piano piece representing the Balinese refreshing and energising “day of silence”, the composer leaves us with a chance to self-reflect, to become oneself again.

Kieran Blyth

photo credit: Resident Advisor