Iceland has been getting a lot of attention from the international music press over the last few years, and with good reason.
The small island nation has become a hot bed of exciting new pop, electronic, folk, and even heavy metal music in recent times, and observant music lovers have learned to keep an ear turned towards Reykjavik for some of the most interesting sonic experiments happening these days. Luxembourg-born, Iceland-raised, California-educated, and currently New York-based, composer Úlfur upholds Iceland’s reputation as the world’s leading contemporary experimental music scene, and offers an experience as diverse as his background with his new album Arborescence.
Úlfur has become known in the music world not just for his impressive collaborations—he has worked with Jónsi of Icelandic luminaries Sigur Rós and has composed pieces for the Kronos Quartet and the Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra—but also for inventing and building some of the unique instruments and synthesizers used in his music. Úlfur’s musical roots are based in the electronic dance music scene where he established his reputation as an up-and-coming talent under the Klive moniker, but he also spent time playing bass in Icelandic hard rock band Swords of Chaos. Úlfur’s diverse musical background have certainly influenced his current work, but with Arborescence, Úlfur offers a sound that is uniquely his own. This new album traverses across cinematic synthscapes and explores deconstructed analog meditations, the trance-like experience broken only by occasional moments of sonic intensity. Arborescence recalls much of the teachings of Tangerine Dream and other Berlin School electronic artists, with its emphasis on building atmosphere through the combination of analog synthesizers and textured natural sounds, but modern production techniques and IDM-inspired electronics give the album a contemporary sheen.
Úlfur’s thoughts on the album are about as abstract as the music itself: “The title is derived from that type of movement,” Úlfur writes. “Arborescence—the phenomenon of branching out, following the path of least resistance, growing from a seed, or a bolt of lightning as it rips through the sky, connecting different outcomes, possibilities to a single point of origin.”
Check out Úlfur’s guide to Iceland here.
Arborescence is available now through Figure Eight Records.