Monday, 13 June 2011

ShadowPlay Interview: Ólöf Arnalds

Icelandic singer and multi-instrumentalist Ólöf Arnalds has collaborated with the likes of Múm and Björk while carefully carving out a fledgling solo career. ShadowPlay caught up with the diminutive arts graduate ahead of the release of her new single Surrender

“There seems to be some sort of idea about Icelandic music that it’s something that’s magical and mythical and so Icelandic musicians get a lots of questions about whether it’s the nature, or the water, that creates so much good music. These questions are asked over and over and I feel like cutting to the chase that the most important acts that have come from Iceland have been noticed for their individuality and their hard work.”
Refreshing words from a musician not afraid to burst the often sickening media bubble surrounding certain countries, ‘scenes’ or genres which take their fancy that month. What makes Ólöf Arnalds even more refreshing is her acknowledgement that without these musicians she would not be sat in the Vortex in Dalston preparing to play a second consecutive sold out night at the venue. While expressing a feeling of guilt that the playing field is not level, the 30-year-old readily accepts that her associations, firstly as a touring “hired gun” for electronic experimentalists Múm, and then in working with Björk on the ethereal new single, she has raised her profile.
In fact her debut solo album Við og Við, released in 2007 on 12 Tonar, was produced by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rós, a band whose success appears to be escalating faster than a rickshaw driven by Usain Bolt munching on a particularly large box of chicken nuggets.

What’s clear is that in any language Arnalds will command the stage – as she did at the Vortex – with a quiet, jovial authority, stopping to make jokes, steward the crowd and even lead some birthday celebrations. Her lilting tones are evocative of a harsher Cat Power or a toned down Kate Bush while her musical versatility across various instruments belies the fact she was classical trained and harbours busting pocketfuls of intuition. There’s little doubt it soon won’t matter what language you speak, you’ll have heard of Ólöf Arnalds. 
Arnalds released her second album Innundir Skinni – Under the Skin – on One Little Indian last year and revealed she could take a radical step forward and sing in English in future. “When I made my first record I was going through grief after losing my father – it was a healing record. The birth of my son was a big inspiration on the second – only these little things like life and death hey. But I want to make a joyful, blissful record now. I’ve started writing a few songs in English for this new record so I can interact with the audience in a different way, I live increasingly in an English-speaking world and play one out of 50 concerts in Iceland but some people have said I may lose the mystique of the Icelandic language.”

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