Ólafur Arnalds returns today with beautiful new single ‘Back To The Sky’, which is available now on Mercury KX. Featuring Icelandic multi-instrumentalist JFDR, the video to ‘Back To The Sky’ was directed by Arni & Kinski.
Ólafur Arnalds is one of the most influential musicians of modern times: a world-colliding, multi-faceted talent, who has paved the way across the electronic and classical worlds. His delicate compositions of haunting, atmospheric beauty were heard on a 140+ date world tour in 2018-19, where he sold out venues around the globe including the Royal Albert Hall and his own genre-bending music festival OPIA at Southbank Centre. Arnalds’ endless thirst for challenge has also seen him compose dance scores for Wayne MacGregor at Sadler’s Wells, win a BAFTA for his work on ‘Broadchurch’, and receive an Emmy nomination just last week for his title theme to ‘Defending Jacob’.
It’s this vanguard status that is cemented on Ólafur Arnalds’ new single, ‘Back To The Sky’. Experimental, more direct but no less affecting, the track arrives alongside a beautiful visual shot in Iceland, with a charged vocal performance by JFDR: a fellow Icelander that Ólafur had wanted to work with for some time, and makes her own, searingly beautiful solo music under her own name (as well as with the bands Samaris, Pascal Pinon, and Gangly). Commenting on the track, JFDR says: “when Ólafur sent over the demo, I could instantly hear and feel the melody. I was back in Reykjavík for a little while this winter and somehow ended up living on my own, the sky was dark all encompassing, I was quite lonely and staring into the sky was like I could speak to someone through the cosmos.”
Ólafur Arnalds’ ability to find moments of peace and tranquillity are a constant in his otherwise-unpredictable career to date. He started out writing compositions for a German metal band, before supporting Sigur Rós and forging an oeuvre full of innovations. His 2007 debut album documented life’s journey from birth to death, with projects ever since ranging from 2016’s ‘Island Songs’ (seven songs made in seven different Icelandic towns, in seven days) to forming one-half of the experimental techno duo, Kiasmos. Having collaborated extensively with German pianist/composer Nils Frahm, Ólafur’s last album – 2018’s ‘re:member’ – proved yet another breakthrough: a technological triumph, it featured his groundbreaking, self-playing and semi-generative Stratus Pianos, whilst growing Arnalds’ extensive audience around the world. Few contemporary acts, after all, would be at home doing all this as they are covering Iggy Pop’s show on 6Music, and performing at festivals like Wilderness, Rock Werchter, and All Together Now.
‘Back To The Sky’ nonetheless has the feel of a fresh chapter for Ólafur Arnalds, and his own particular journey of self-discovery. Intimate, markedly personal and fuelled by new possibilities, to listen to Ólafur Arnalds is to be reminded of the beauty still possible in times of chaos.