On For Now I Am Winter, Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds integrates his signature feathery neoclassical sensibilities with an electronic influence. This meeting of the worlds is in and of itself an intriguing concept. The album is a big departure for Arnalds for another reason as well: it is his first to feature vocals. Provided by Arnór Dan, they only occur on four of the album’s 12 tracks, but are enough to make an impression.
At points, the album fully delivers on its promise of novelty, but later dissolves into tedium. The most enjoyable songs are the purest, such as the spare piano piece, “Words Of Amber,” and the dusky, slow-building introduction, “Sudden Throw.” However, this respite is often short-lived. Darker undercurrents running through songs like “Old Skin” seem to hint at some greater purpose that ultimately never manifests itself.
Furthermore, most of the moods established therein are dismantled by the flashy layering of electronic percussion. Sometimes the effect is put to good use, as in “Brim,” in which the buoyant theme moves agilely from violin to piano over electronic beats before cooling into a somber outro. Dan’s hypnotic and velvety vocals carry “For Now I Am Winter” and “A Stutter” along nicely with a dash of neo-soul. On the other hand, the more dramatic “Reclaim” and “This Place Was A Shelter,” though they have their moments, end up sounding tawdry and derivative.
The objective beauty of tracks in between is undeniable but easily forgotten, and the quality wavers. Arnalds’ technical skill and artistic vision is apparent, but the music itself largely gives me a feeling of uncertainty. Devout fans of his stylings will certainly meet For Now I Am Winter with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those enlightened few who can find magic in a winter morning.
In A Word: Sleek