Ólöf Arnalds @ Bush Hall
aaamusic | On 16, Sep 2010
London, 14th September
It has been 4 years since Ólöf Arnalds, driven by the grief and raw emotion of the loss of her father, first stepped into the studio to record her debut album Við Og Við. Produced by Sigur Rós’s Kjartan Sveinsson, this harrowing, beautiful and ethereal release has now been followed by the tonight’s launch of Innundir Skinni (Under the Skin).
Taking to the stage in support of Arnalds are Les Shelleys whose re-interpretations of traditional folk songs and calypso rhythms are accompanied by Angela Correa’s sultry vocals and low-fi percussion in the form of thigh slaps and stomping on stage. The soft hula rhythms of their music sway back and forth before they finish the evening’s set in the middle of the floor.
Following a brief interlude David Thor Jonsson takes to the grand piano that juts out in front of the stage before Arnalds appears in a floor sweeping 1920s black lace dress. She soon steps over the piano and takes to the stage. The pair immediately express their warmth and humour as Jonsson reminds people that this is a “non-smoking flight” and Arnalds announces that she spent the day in the rain, “dancing in her underwear” for a video which she hopes will turn out well and not just embarrassingly.
Launching into ‘Surrender’, the classically trained violinist and composer’s sweet and sassy vocal’s soar above the gently strummed acoustic guitars in perfect harmony. The eerie murmurs of ‘Madrid’ are punctuated by piercing and crisp Icelandic vocals that have an air of magic and mystery to them, as well as an innocence, impetuousness and childlike wonderment.
Swapping the guitar for the violin, the album’s title track is as stunningly haunting as it is amusing. Arnalds’ jaw slides from side to side, in time with her darting eyes and falsetto vocals as she encourages the audience to join her in singing about a “crazy car”.
Tonight’s performance culminates in an encore of ‘All is Good’, before which Arnalds pouts and playfully says she wrote this song “the moment she heard about the economic crisis in Iceland”. Punctuated by gentle staccato humming, the song’s melody swells and quivers as the audience hum along until there is no more guitar, and no more Arnolds only a room of strangers humming in harmony.
Photos: Sonny Malhotra