Variations of Static offers elements that will be familiar to anyone who has heard Eulogy for Evolution, Icelander Olafur Arnalds first fledgling. To its favor, though, this five track e.p. is a far more focussed, steady and, ultimately, capable exercise in modern composition. The expanded world of color and percussiveness that promenaded through much of Arnalds rather uneven debut effort fall under the knife, and the lyrical preparation of strings, yearning piano arpeggios, and the sonic whoosh and shimmer of electronics appear more honed in their absence.
Particularly in the last two chapters of this work, which does indeed unfold as a linear narrative, solidified by a recurrent computer voice that recounts its last residues of memory, the work takes on tonal flirtations and ambiguities in Arnalds playing. “Himininn er aÃ° hrynja, en stjÃ¶rnurnar fara Ã¾Ã©r vel” is especially successful. Listening to it is like staring at the opaque surface of a pool and watching details gradually become apparent as the eyes adjust to the perception of depth. Cello and violin etch deep, protruding lines into static accumulations of flecks and flickering particles and, while certain elements still stand out, at the same time others effectively blur and fall away.
Real progression is shown here. But even so, on a whole, Arnalds has clearly yet to find a voice of his own. As compensation for the lack of any real infrastructure, his pieces are explicitly sentimental, and often sound like unnecessary addendum’s to the works of others – specifically Johann Johannsson – who are presently plodding paths in these realms.