Release Date: Sep 29, 2014
Record label: One Little Indian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Folk
You can take a good guess at what Palme sounds like from the colour palette of its artwork. It’s white, icy blue and spacious, just like the sounds of the songs themselves. It’s also on One Little Indian, and sounds very much like The Sort Of Thing you’d get on that label alongside fellow sometime-folkster electronic-botherers like Bjork. Collaborations with members of Múm add electronics to Ólöf Arnalds’s acoustic arrangements for the first time, and fully complete the archetypical cold Icelandic soundscapes.
The fourth album from Ólöf Arnalds sees a marked change in direction from her previous albums. It’s her most collaborative effort to date with Gunnar Örn Tynes of múm and Skúli Sverrisson (who has worked with Blonde Redhead and Laurie Anderson, amongst others) coming on board. Despite her reservations about collaborative songwriting, it’s a process that seems to have liberated her and, possibly resulted in her best record to date.
The fourth long-player from the ghostly Icelandic singer/songwriter and cousin of ghostly Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds, Palme arrives just one year after 2013's bucolic Sudden Elevation, and while it retains its predecessor's magical lilt, it's an icier confection that's as pure as powdered snow, yet bubbling over with fairy mischief. At just over half-an-hour, Palme doesn't mince words; its pleasures are meticulously crafted and perfectly executed, and they succeed or fail based only on which way the listener falls in regards to Arnalds idiosyncratic voice, much like Joanna Newsom's. Musically, Palme is a melting pot of Icelandic electro-folk, worldbeat, indie rock, ambient pop and something else altogether, and it works best as a whole, blithely weaving its way from beginning to end like a pair of Hobbits returning to the Shire after a long adventure -- this is a country where people protest the building of new highways that interfere with the natural habitat of elves.
Like Joanna Newsom’s early work, Icelandic folkie Ólöf Arnalds’ output has so far comprised little more than delicate acoustic picking and high-pitched vocals. But on fourth album ‘Palme’, the 34-year-old – plus collaborators Gunnar Örn Tynes (founder of glitchy experimental collective Múm) and long-term writing partner Skúli Sverrisson – tests the boundaries of her sound by moving away from stripped-back simplicity and adding new elements. There are sprinkled electronics on the bubbly ‘Hypnose’ and sci-fi oddity ‘Half Steady’, and a sweeping string section helps lift tender highpoint ‘Defining Gender’.