Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Album Review - In The Silence

In The Silence
by Ásgeir (out March 21, 2014)

What comes to mind when you're thinking of Iceland? I'm guessing it's going to be Bjork and that volcano that ruined European travel for like two weeks a couple of years ago. Everyone loves Bjork (and by everyone I mean me and a whole bunch of other weirdos) and everyone hates that volcano (and by everyone I mean me and all those that had flights canceled), but pretty soon everyone will be loving the very talented Icelandic artist, Ásgeir and his debut, In The Silence. And by everyone, I mean everyone. The hugely popular debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn was released in Iceland back in 2012 and now he's taking it to the English speaking world under the title of In The Silence. And no, I have no idea how to pronounce Dýrð í dauðaþögn.

"I lift my mind to the sky, and I let it take flight, the wind carries to my ears, precious sounds of life." We're introduced to Ásgeir Trausti's calming vocal tones with the track 'Higher' and it doesn't take long for you to sink right into the folky goodness. Don't let your mind wander to strange places with the combination of 'Icelandic' and 'folky'. There's some R'n'B influences and light electronic touches floating around that place Ásgeir in a James Blake by the way of Damien Rice setting. As opposed to some sort of Icelandic fishing village hoe-down, which is where I'm assuming your mind could have wondered off to. Have I comfortably proven I know nothing about Iceland yet? I did that in the last paragraph? Good.

You'll be drawn to the lyrics just as much as Ásgeir's voice, like these from the title track 'In The Silence' - "Come, take my hand, let's undo the knots of the past, from the night where phantoms toss and turn, go further, deeper as the day is closing." John Grant, who worked on translating the songs from Icelandic to English reportedly did the best he could to maintain the original meanings of the songs, which were mostly written by Ásgeir's dad. His dad just so happens to be one of Iceland's most popular and respected poets, so yes, it's cool to have your dad write your lyrics when your dad is Ásgeir's.

In terms of standout tracks, it's hard to overlook 'Torrent', which was brought to our attention by Brisbane's own Astrid Jorgensen (she of Astrid and The Asteroids!) in January. If you want to know how to pronounce the Icelandic album title, go ask Astrid. 'Torrent' is a really beautiful track made up of some excellent melodies, layered vocals and lyrics that read like an episode of Vikings. Example: "Gods of iron clashing, wind in battle through the night, tears will fall and strength is needed to overcome." It's a nice singalong moment on In The Silence that builds from the simple, opening piano line into beating drums and so much more.

Memorable lyrics, heart-stirring melodies and one of the best new voices of the year. Ásgeir offers up a lot to love on In The Silence. I might not know a lot about Iceland, but I know that this is one artist's debut I'll be discovering for years to come.

Matt Bond gives In The Silence four Shirley Manson heads out of five...

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