Ólafur Arnalds (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈouːlavʏr ˈarnals]; born 3 November 1986) is a BAFTA-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer from Mosfellsbær, Iceland. Ólafur Arnalds mixes strings and piano with loops and beats crossing over from ambient/electronic to pop. Ólafur was a drummer of hardcore / metal bands Fighting Shit, Celestine, and others.
In 2009, Ólafur also formed an experimental techno project, entitled Kiasmos, with Janus Rasmussen from the Icelandic electro-pop band Bloodgroup. In 2014 Ólafur announced his electronic debut album under the Kiasmos project.
Early career (2004–2007)
In 2004, Ólafur composed and recorded the intro and two outros for tracks on the album Antigone by German metal band Heaven Shall Burn. On his Facebook page, he described how he got to know them: "I was playing drums in a hardcore band and we were supporting the German metal band Heaven Shall Burn on their Icelandic tour. Being a huge fan, I gave them a demo with some very overly dramatic prog-rock songs I had been making at home – it was not so classic like this but had some badly computerized strings and piano in it. A few months later they contacted me asked if I would write some intros and outros for their new album, but only with the piano/strings elements – So I wrote my first classical pieces. Their album was a big success in Europe and a few months later I got a phone call from a label asking 'would you be interested in making a full album with compositions like this?' I hadn't really considered continuing writing music like this, but said yes."
Eulogy For Evolution and Variations of Static (2007–2008)
On 12 October 2007, Ólafur's first solo album Eulogy for Evolution was released. It was followed by the EP Variations of Static in 2008. In the same year, Ólafur toured with Sigur Rós and his second collaboration with Heaven Shall Burn, the album Iconoclast (Part 1: The Final Resistance), was released. He is also reported to have sold out The Barbican Hall in London.
Found Songs and Dyad 1909 (2009)
In April 2009, Ólafur composed and released a track daily for seven days, instantly making each track available within 24 hours from foundsongs.erasedtapes.com. The collection of tracks was entitled Found Songs. The first track was released on 13 April.
In October 2009, the ballet Dyad 1909 premiered with a score composed by Ólafur which was also released as an EP.
Also in 2009, Ólafur formed an experimental techno project, Kiasmos, with Janus Rasmussen from the Icelandic electro-pop band Bloodgroup. They released a joint EP with Ryan Lee West of the EDM project Rival Consoles entitled 65/Milo.
Second studio album and Living Room Songs (2010–2011)
In April 2010, Ólafur released a new album entitled ...And They Have Escaped The Weight of Darkness. During 2010 Ólafur also went on a well-received Asian Tour organised by China-based promoter Split Works.
On 3 October 2011, Ólafur started another seven-day composition project similar to Found Songs, this one entitled Living Room Songs. The tracks were made available at livingroomsongs.olafurarnalds.com/ each day throughout the week. The project was released as an album on 23 December 2011.
2011 also saw the release of Ólafur's remix of Mr Fogg's track "Keep Your Teeth Sharp" on the EP of the same name.
Another Happy Day, Two Songs For Dance... (2012)
In 2012, Ólafur announced a new partnership with the Universal Music label Mercury Classics.
2012 saw four releases from Ólafur; his score for Sam Levinson's film Another Happy Day; an EP entitled Two Songs For Dance; the second EP from his experimental techno project Kiasmos and another EP entitled Stare with German pianist Nils Frahm.
Also in 2012, his song "Allt varð hljótt" was used in the score and the soundtrack for the film The Hunger Games.
"Til enda" was used in a trailer for the 2012 film Looper.
For Now I Am Winter and further scores (2013–2014)
Ólafur released his third studio album entitled For Now I Am Winter in February 2013. Four tracks featured vocals from Arnór Dan of the Icelandic band Agent Fresco. This was the first time Ólafur incorporated vocals into any of his released work.
More recently, he composed the score and end-credits track for the 2013 ITV series Broadchurch (again featuring the vocals of Arnór Dan), for which he won the 2014 BAFTA TV Craft Award for Best Original Music.
Ólafur also composed the score for Ron Krauss' film Gimme Shelter.
For Now I Am Winter was used in the pilot of the 2013 US TV show Masters of Sex.
Ólafur Arnalds has been involved with various other projects and his music appears in many films, television shows and advertisements. His songs have been featured on So You Think You Can Dance in multiple seasons. He also spoke at length on the subject of fan-submitted art in the 2011 documentary film Press Pause Play.
In 2014 Ólafur announced his electronic debut album in collaboration with Janus Rasmussen under his project Kiasmos.
The Chopin Project and further projects (2015)
In 2015 Ólafur collaborated with German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott on The Chopin Project, which was a release to introduce an exciting new take on the music of Frédéric Chopin. Arnalds chose a program of Chopin works to create an emotional arc throughout the album and then composed linking sections for string quintet, piano, and synthesizer based on the atmosphere and motifs of those pieces.
The Chopin Project began as a dedication to Ólafur's grandmother, in some respects. Out of respect for her, a younger, metal-loving Ólafur would sit with her to listen to Chopin's work whenever they had visited one another. At her deathbed, Ólafur said "she was just lying there, old and sick, but very happy and proud. And I sat with her and we listened to a Chopin sonata. Then I kissed her goodbye and left. She passed away a few hours later."
In 2015, Ólafur's collaborations with Nils Frahm, Life Story Love and Glory and Loon, were collected on a double CD entitled Collaborative Works along with 2012's Stare and a live improvisational film entitled Trance Frendz - An evening with Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. 2015 also saw the full release of his work on Broadchurch.
Island Songs (2016)
In June 2016 Ólafur announced his Island Songs project which would involve him working with director Baldvin Z and travelling to 7 different locations in Iceland over 7 weeks collaborating with 7 different artists. Each week the audio and video for each track would be released, culminating in the final track, "Doria", being released on the 8th of August 2016.
List of tracks with collaborators:
"Árbakkinn" (ft. Einar Georg)
"1995" (ft. Dagný Arnalds)
"Raddir" (ft. South Iceland Chamber Choir)
"Öldurót" (ft. Atli Örvarsson & SinfoniaNord)
"Dalur" (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals)
"Particles" (ft. Nanna Bryndís from Of Monsters and Men)
"Particles" ft. Nanna Bryndís from Of Monsters and Men was premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show on the 1st of August 2016, making it the first classical track to feature on Beats 1.
Ólafur's cousin Ólöf Arnalds is also a well-known singer/songwriter. Ólafur is a vegetarian.