Following its initial release in 2007 and coinciding with his 30th birthday, Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds has reissued and revived his debut album in form of a special remastered 10th Anniversary edition titled Eulogy For Evolution 2017.
Eulogy For Evolution is a journey from birth to death, transporting the listener through life itself. Originally written as a teenager, the record has now been restored with the help of his friends, remixed by Arnalds himself and remastered by Nils Frahm.
Says Arnalds: "I spent a couple of weeks in some sort of a time machine, opening up and working on 12-year-old recordings. There was noise in the microphones, some channels seemed accidentally muted, but sometimes I found myself admiring what my teenage self was capable of. It was somehow charming. Well, most of it. So I fixed the stuff that wasn’t before sending it off to Nils Frahm for remastering."
"It was an ambitious outing. When I was 18 my uncle passed away from cancer. It was the first time I had experienced the passing of someone close to me, so I dedicated my work to him. Around the same time, his first grandchild was born, and was named after him. I was inspired by the joy and positivity he brought, and saw that somehow life was extended after our death. So I set out to create a solid piece of music that would take us through the circle of life."
For the music theory geeks, one could see this as an exercise in modulation by a 16-year-old who just heard the term for the first time. But I believe what I was thinking was this constant feeling of never really knowing where you (what key we are in) are until finally it falls into place (c-minor), things become settled and life begins. And that right-hand melody will reappear several times throughout the album.
At this time - and probably still today if i’m honest - I couldn’t really play piano except in C-minor and E-minor. So I called my cousin (Dagný Arnalds, who also appears in my film Island Songs playing the organ) to come to the studio and record this track for me.
0048 / 0729
So, first of all, I think the title of this one is a typo… I think it was supposed to be 0448/0729 but got lost somewhere in the world of early metadata. But whatever. What a weird song this is. I know I said in the liner notes of the re-release that I found this expose into my 16-year-old self’s composing “mostly charming” but I think this is one of the cases where it isn’t. Why is there a melodica in this song? Makes no sense.
OK, so this song is important. Most of the album I wrote in the 2-3 years before the album was released. But this song I actually added in the studio during the recordings. I think it shows a big change in my taste and composing style and a hint of what was to come on following releases (Variations Of Static, Found Songs) where I made the rather abrupt shift into more minimalist compositions. Realising you don’t need to throw a teenage fit to express your feelings. In fact, this may be the exact point in time where my balls dropped.
A personal favorite and one of the earliest compositions for the album. Fun fact, the major part that starts around the 4-minute mark was literally composed of me randomly hitting all the black keys with my right hand.
I don’t know what’s happening here but I like it. I also like how this track-by-track feature is turning into a review of my own album.
Another song that mostly got created in the studio. I went into the studio with a composition only written for one piano and a string quartet but walked out of the studio with a hard drive full of drum parts, guitars, several new piano melodies, electronic ambiances… Since then I strongly believe that the best songs get created spontaneously. They appear in front of your eyes (or ears?) almost automatically, like they were always supposed to be this way, like it was an organic living beast that grew on its own - you only planted the DNA.
I wrote this on the midi sequencer in Pro Tools 5.3 - yes really - and then handed it off to a violinist to turn it into actual music. The wonderful thing about it is that since not much of the expression was written into the DNA of the song, it can change a lot depending on who is playing it and how they choose to express it. The violinist on this recording is Gréta Salóme (fun fact: she has competed twice for Iceland in Eurovision Song Contest with her epic string-laden pop-rock songs) but if you hear my touring soloist Viktor Orri playing it, it’s a completely different song.
3704 / 3837
This is where things turn slightly weird. I was still a drummer in a thrash punk band at this time and felt it was nice to include that element on the album. There was also this big idea about the album being about the circle of life and death, and I guess this is death then.
Eulogy For Evolution 2017 is out now via Erased Tapes. For more information about Ólafur Arnalds, please visit his official website.