REVIEW: Ólafur Arnalds – Late Night Tales

It was excruciatingly early, on a Friday morning only a month ago, when I found myself landing in Iceland’s lava fields and wondering if this is real life or I’m dreaming of visiting Mars. What followed were several wonderfully weird days – from taking a stroll through an ever expanding gap between the European and North American tectonic plates to narrowly getting a table at a buzzing restaurant in downtown Reykjavik, from exploring 9th century Viking history in one moment to admiring the view from the strikingly 21st century building of the Harpa concert hall in the next.

To declare myself a sudden expert in Icelandic sensibilities would not only be presumptuous, but also embarrassingly touristic. And yet, I can’t help but feel that experiencing even a fraction of the uncommon-ness of Iceland has the power to give insight into the stunningly unique musical landscape of the Nordic island. Because it is a very special place and one that has produced an impressive amount of stellar musicians considering it’s the most sparsely populated country in Europe!

One of these musicians is now at the helm of the latest edition of the Late Night Tales mix series. Ólafur Arnalds – multi-instrumentalist and producer, one half of electronic duo Kiasmos, award-winning film and TV composer, Nils Frahm collaborator and the list continues! – has compiled what can only be described as a goose bump inducing mix that will make you marvel at some brilliant Icelandic sounds as well as relish music from favourites such as James Blake, Jai Paul, Koreless, Odesza, Four Tet and Jamie xx.

‘As someone who has never really done mixes before, I learned a lot of things along the way and the whole experience was very inspiring,’ says Arnalds. ‘I decided to approach the mix in a similar way as I would one of my scores. This is the soundtrack of my life. I included songs from many of my friends and collaborators and tried to deliver a mix that represents who I am as an artist and where my influences are coming from – both personally and musically.’

Arnalds’ own production is represented by ‘RGB’ and ‘Kinesthesia I’ under his own name, the atmospheric ‘Orgoned’ as part of Kiasmos, as well as on the obligatory LNT cover song – a daringly mellow, violin-induced rendition of Destiny’s Child late 90s classic ‘Say My Name’ in collaboration with Arnór Dan. It’s also worth highlighting Samaris’ ‘Góða Tungl’ and the absolutely heartbreaking ‘Ethereal’ by Hjaltalin, both of which I admit to replaying immediately upon my first listen of the mix. At the end of this stunning journey is Anam Sufi’s poem ‘Undone’, read by David Tennant – star of TV series Broadchurch for which Arnalds provides the original score and was awarded a Bafta in 2014.

Give yourself the pleasure of Ólafur Arnalds’ Late Night Tales for it is pure contentment and a wave of emotion that you will come out with at the end of the mix. And then you’ll play it again.

Written by Raya Raycheva