A calming, beatific experience...

There is an unfortunate connection between music that gives you a feeling of tranquillity and it being, for want of a better word, boring.

For the most part this isn’t fair. Just because a piece of music emits a calming mood, doesn’t mean that it isn’t interesting or dynamic. Classical composer Gabríel Ólafs’ latest album, ‘Absent Minded Reworks’, proves that this isn’t true. It is full of poignant piano runs, soothing motifs, and glorious melodies. It is anything but boring.

At its heart ‘Absent Minded Reworks’ is a classical version of a remix and covers album rolled into one. The basis for the album was Ólafs’ 2019 album ‘Absent Minded’. From that Ólafs releases ‘Piano Works’, his solo deconstruction of that album. Now he’s asked some friends to have a bash at his work. Each track has been reworked, recomposed, and tinkered with by a slew of exceptional musicians. Kelly Moran, Hugar, Masayoshi Fujita and Kippi Kaninus, to name a few, all rolled up their sleeves to see if they can somehow enhance Ólaf's original compositions. Unsurprisingly they do.

The album opens with ‘Think Of Home’. Here Kelly Moran really plays with the lyrical nature of the music. At times it dances and drifts joyfully while its others it hangs about in a wretched state full of mournful sorrow.

At these times it really showcases Moran’s playing as well as Ólafs original composition. ‘Bara’ has a wonderful melancholy to it. Huger really draws the longing out of every note. The way the string underpins the piano is one of the standout moments on the album. Throughout Huger is really drawing the emotional content out of ‘Bara’ as you use a mangle was used to get every last drop of water out of clothes. With each turn of the handle there is another outpouring of emotion. The final moments feel like the last drops being wrung from it.

By contrast ‘Another Fall, Another Spring’ is full of optimism and hope. Masayoshi Fujita really nails that feeling of assurance that things can change and just because it looks a bit dank out doesn’t mean it has to say there. It is reminiscent of the first rays of light emerging over the rooftops in the morning. It’s never so dark as it is before dawn, but once dawn comes everything looks a little bit more promising.

The final few tracks on the album are Ólafs being accompanied by a different musician. ‘Filma’ features Katie Buckley on harm and ‘Cyclist Waltz’ see Ásta Soffía joining Ólafs on accordion. ‘Droplets’ and ‘Staircase Sonata’ are different variations of the original piece of music. Their inclusion finishes the album as it started. With understated beauty.

‘Absent Minded Reworks’ is a tranquil album. Its mood is reflective. That isn’t to say that it’s an album you can switch off to. Far from it. Throughout ‘Absent Minded Reworks’ motifs appear and reappear. Dainty piano runs, filigree melodies and sanguine string. It’s an album that unveils more of its secrets with every listen. An album that makes you glad you played it. While 2020 has been a great year for music I can’t think of many albums I can say that about. And this is what ‘Absent Minded Reworks’ does. It washes over you, but the feeling it leaves is anything but absent minded. 

8/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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