‘Piano Works’ out June 26th via One Little Indian Records
Watch new ‘Nordic House Session’
Following the release of last year’s mesmerising ‘Absent Minded’, Gabríel Ólafs returns with his stripped back yet beautifully intricate ‘Paino Works’, a collection of reimagined arrangements released as part of an ambitious deconstructive series by One Little Indian Records.
He’s now also shared his intimate and stunning Nordic House session, filmed Blair Alexander and featuring the likes of Ragnheiður Ingunn, Kristín Ý and Katie Buckley (Björk’s harpist).
“Like many, I was supposed to be on tour which was cancelled, but I wanted to deliver a live performance in some way. I performed a set in the Nordic House in Reykjavík during Iceland Airwaves and I loved the atmosphere and the sound of the grand piano, so I gathered some musician friends (a harpist, violinist and flutist) and we played songs from my debut album in special arrangements.”
The Icelandic pianist wrote his debut ‘Absent Minded’ at just 14 years old and peaked interest for his deft appreciation for ambience and space, creativity and a musical story-telling ability far beyond his years. Masterful compositions ebb and flow seamlessly and depict epics from pure imagination, as Ólafs small town isolation means he draws his inspiration from the smallest things; a poster of a French cyclist, his mother gardening or the harbour down the road.
It’s because his music is so thematically expansive but also personal that it lends itself so gracefully to solo piano. Not only that but Gabríel had backing provided by the mother of all orchestras; “During recording there was a storm. A red weather warning meaning that you shouldn’t drive or walk outside. While I’m playing the old upright you can sometimes hear the howling wind blowing through the window next to it. Even though it didn’t turn out perfect, I thought there was a magic to the performance recordings we made that night and I embraced the imperfections.”
Not only composing, arranging and performing everything by himself, Gabríel worked closely with engineer Bergur Thorisson to help produce and mix the album. He also recorded the ambient version of ‘Lóa’ himself with the sounds from the piano using e-bows, delays and reverse processing.
Alongside re-recordings of previous work the album also contains new material. Ólafs crafted an intro with which to set the scene as well as two tracks, ‘Birta’ meaning “bright light” in Icelandic (and also the name of his lifelong pet dog) and ‘Flatey’ which is a picturesque island off the coast of Iceland, but also the name of the pizza restaurant across from the studio where they would eat during the recording process. With more reworked music in the pipeline for 2020, Gabríel Ólafs fierce creative determination and endless vision continues to shine through without a hint of obstruction. After all he’s not only used to solitude but thrives in it.