Sometimes music doesn’t need lyrics to speak for it – it’s perfectly capable of speaking for itself, of telling its own story. Such is the case with the spellbinding compositions on the new collaborative work from Icelandic duo, Jón Ólafsson & Árni Grétar a.k.a Futuregrapher.
The aptly named ‘EITT’, Icelandic for ‘One’, is an allegorical reference to the collective of thematic strands running through the album, as well as the collaborative joining up, of these two renowned musicians.
Pianist Ólafsson, a member of Icelandic group, Nýdönsk, is a multiple award winner famous for working with such avant-garde geniuses as John Grant and Björk. Futuregrapher on the other hand, is an highly reputable, multi-tasking musician, producer and co-owner of electronic label, Moller Records, through which ‘EITT’ has been released.
Although both musicians hail from very different backgrounds, after having got to know each other, via several prolonged conversations about music and life, they came to realise that there was a natural synchronicity between them, and agreed to dip their toes into the collaborative pool as it were.
Recorded one track at a time, each individual piano element was firstly laid down by by Jón, then sent on to Futuregrapher, who created his electro-ambient world around each respective piano sequence. “Physically” the pair worked separately, but came together towards the end of the process to make any required cosmetic changes, and complete the final mix.
‘EITT’ comprises eight tracks of electro-classical, avant-garde and ambient sounds filled with humanity, nature, life, and love. The song titles are in Icelandic: here is a translation, so you can get a feel for the thematic scheme.
Inspired by nature, natural sounds and humanity, the album is filled with a lot of field recordings taken by Futuregrapher over the past two years. While the sounds weren’t necessarily recorded with the album in mind, as luck would have it, they harmonised perfectly with the music. As for the humanity, Futuregrapher lays the credit firmly at Jón’s door. “The feeling and passion he put into the piano playing is so moving.”
Lead track Myndir, which means “pictures”, opens with a continuous synth line, broken up by a very pronounced, spacious piano sequence, which hangs dramatically in the air, whilst sounds of water flow underneath like a musical rivulet. Creaks and scratches of noise, add a humane feel, while delicate synth and bubbling piano chords evolve nicely into a sparkling whirlpool of musical loveliness.
‘Börn’ (meaning children) is probably the loveliest track on the album. It’s a wonderfully uplifting, minimalist piece, featuring happy, laughing and giggling children at play. It’s natural, understated and emotional, without overdoing the sentiment. The piece conjures up an image of a protective musical space within which the children are playing – in which the music is both looking over and after, these carefree kids, playing away, happy and content. It’s a beautiful thing.
Both Jón and Futuregrapher are fathers, the latter also works in a Reykjavík pre-school, so it’s no small surprise to find they have created a piece of work that involves and relates to children.
‘Sálmur’ or ‘Psalm’ is as wondrously contemplative as it’s religious counterpart, The Book of Psalms, the title of which is derived from the Greek word ‘psalmoi’, meaning instrumental music. Coincidence? Shouldn’t think so. Life, hope and truth are the themes of Psalms, and this crisp, clean, uplifting, musical meditation conveys them well. Album closer, ‘Vestur’, with its sweet birdsong, and noisy waves crashing against the shoreline, is a like a sonic ode to nature gilded by exquisitely played, sunny piano chords. It’s a tranquil ending to a truly enchanting album.
Listening to ‘Eitt’ is like having a little sneak peak into a musical nirvana. It’s an impressively executed album that highlights both Ólafsson’s spectacular mastery of the piano, and Futuregrapher’s keen understanding of arrangement and production.
Gentle, soothing, mindful, spiritual, its natural loveliness is a testament to the organic way in which it was inspired, crafted and produced. Magical. 9/10.