Ólöf Arnalds returns with a brand new album, ‘Palme’ – her fourth – released via One Little Indian on 29th September.

‘Palme’ represents Ólöf´s most collaborative effort to date, and also perhaps her most profoundly sensual & affecting. Musically, it offers up an astonishing wellspring of fresh ideas and playful experimentation that move the sound on from the acoustic approach that predominantly defined her first three records, ‘Við og Við’ (2007), ‘Innundir Skinni’ (2009) and ‘Sudden Elevation’ (2013).

On ‘Palme’ Ólöf is sensitively backed by trusted friends and collaborators; Gunnar Örn Tynes (founder of electro-folk collective, múm) and once more by long-term musical foil, Skúli Sverrisson (who has also worked with such luminaries as Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Blonde Redhead).

Lead single ‘Patience’, written by Skúli (who also shares writing credits for ‘Palme’ and ‘Soft Living’) boasts an almost Polynesian vocal sway while ‘Defining Gender’s gentle bossa nova and swelling strings conspire to make it so tender it threatens to burst at any moment. Elsewhere subtle electronics guide ‘Hypnose’s gentle propulsion and ‘Half Steady’s strange, robotic cacophony. Some songs, such as ‘Turtledove’, are brand new, while others are old friends – ‘Half Steady’ was written by Ólöf while still in her teens.

Gunnar Örn Tynes significant presence on the record is felt through its programmed electronics and the digital manipulation of some of the instrumental parts – new elements that pushed Ólöf out of her comfort zone; for the first time she was writing, performing and recording simultaneously, musical ideas intuitively pieced together or picked apart as they went along. “Skúli, Gunni and I all contributed from our different experience, aesthetic and skills in a very open, straight forward dialogue” says Ólöf. “What worked best musically always ended up in the songs, the darlings were killed with no regrets!”

In many cases the shape of the songs – even chord structures and melodies – were transformed entirely during the six months of the record’s gestation. “It took a lot of trust to let my collaborators so far into my musical expression and at times I found it a bit frightening”, acknowledges Ólöf. “But now when I listen to the record, I feel that the music is no less on my terms than in my previous work. It feels more like out of nowhere, the record I´ve always dreamed of making has become a reality.”

The constant here, of course, is Ólöf’s effortlessly distinctive vocal. A voice “that can silence a room, such is its sweetness” once opined a bowled over Time Out NY, and here on ‘Palme’ it has never proven so poignant nor powerfully intoxicating.

Ólöf tours in the UK in late September/ early October:

30-Aug Birmingham Moseley Folk Festival
28-Sep Brighton Komedia Studio Bar
29-Sep London Oslo
01-Oct Bristol The Louisiana
02-Oct Manchester Cornerhouse
03-Oct Liverpool Leaf
04-Oct York Fibbers
05-Oct Glasgow Mono

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Xsnoize Author
Mark Millar is the founder of XS Noize and looks after the daily running of the website as well as hosting interviews for the weekly XS Noize Podcast. Mark's favourite album is Achtung Baby by U2.

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