Stories from another world by Árstíðir

in Live by

Árstíðir resounds best in small and intimate spaces. Therefore Cafe Rosenberg located in Reykjavík downtown seems to be an ideal venue for this kind of event and the band is totally aware of that. No wonder, since founding the band in 2008 the team has given there their most important performances. In the end vocal harmonies and acoustic sound suit so well to this place. I´m still not sure if I can find proper words to describe the official release concert of Hvel with a pretty good band Hinemoa as a warming-up act that took place there, at Cafe Rosenberg, on October 3rd in front of a packed audience.

I like the way you tell stories, they move me to another world (Mér líkar svo vel hvernig þú segir sögur, þær flytja mig í annan heim) – with those words Gunnar Már Jakobsson started the show, playing a baritone guitar and singing softly. I must agree with those words. I like the way Árstíðir conjures up the atmosphere and discoveres new areas so much, stepping from folk music into another dimension, into a different world, the world of Hvel, while performing material from the newest album that was released half a year ago as a third full-length recording in the history of Árstíðir (Árstíðir came out in 2009 and Svefns og vöku skil in 2011).

The gentle vocal harmonies of 4-piece band (a 5th member joins them with cello on stage) arrive this time with a new kind of dramatic power that one could find e.g. in Things You Said, a song that contains a tension of skillfully and gradually built rhythm section’s part. Easily the best guest appearance of the evening was Magnús Trygvason Eliassen, let´s say – the drummer of Iceland. As far as I can recall, Árstíðir had never before performed with drums. Those musicians still ply us with intruiging guitar sounds and such captivating parts of the ivories that e.g. in Vetur að vori wander very far into a trail that was less frequently used by the band – the trail towards electronic music.

We were breathing gently so as to not disturb the energy circulating in the concert room. She talks to me, she whispers so softly. You might say that also about Árstíðir´s music, an exquisite mixture of classic, pop, electronic and progressive components crowned with those beautiful male vocals. Although the band performs nowadays quite a lot of songs in English, the material doesn´t lose anything from the mysterious Icelandic charm.

In terms of string parts, things got finally into a bit wilder. Even more than before, that violin played by gifted Karl Pestka was able to pierce through my skull and my heart and to leave me trembling and amazed by the sudden awareness of the music’s beauty. It´s Árstíðir that knocked me dead one day and I have been still in this state. I still remember the smell of the air the day I heard them live for the first time. Since last year’s show at KEX Hostel I have known that Hvel seduces at least 3 times more than the previous recordings so how could you not feel this gradually increasing sonic angst of Friðþægingin with drums in the background and heavily accented almost aggresive dynamic violin? And after this explosion you could hear as subtle, almost wistful, melancholic and instrumental reassurance. So it turned out to be also a good reason to create a salty waterfall of tears. I already threw away all the tears I had prepared for Shades but it seemed like during there is no limit. And tell me, was there anyone so insensitive as to not get goosebumps during Unfold…?

Members of Árstíðir proved once again that a voice is essential. Daníel Auðunsson (acoustic guitar) is so charismatic, Gunnar has become even more expressive on vocals, Karl finally debuted as a solo singer, not hidden behind part-song, and Ragnar Ólafsson (piano) let us hear that only the sky is the limit (especially in Shine) so we actually could experience how the musicians go beyond the secure frames of serenity. A development of the sound in all directions made me realize that Árstíðir reached again another level of performing.

As I said, my tears prepared for Shades run much earlier than I expected. The second part of the concert contained well-known songs that made me feel like I had again in front of my eyes an abandoned old railway station with closed tracks in the golden autumn sunshine. Around were tall reeds. I found myself submerged in the most magical memories that this band has generated in my head for the last few years. Ljóð í sand, Á meðan jörðin sefur. And this way Árstíðir always offers an emotional journey, which direction depends solely on strings that were moved inside the listener. For sure they will move you somehow because you simply cannot be indifferent to Árstíðir.

Gonna hurt myself again. And let Árstíðir steal your heart again and again, even not expecting to get your heart back. Like it happened with mine.

Stína has followed her passion to Icelandic music as a music journalist since 2010. She joined then a writing team of Muzyka Islandzka - a Polish website dedicated to Icelandic music. Spreading her wings, Stína started her adventure with Icelandic language and moved to Reykjavík where she studied the language at the university. She also takes an active part in life of the local music scene. Since 2014 Stína had run a music blog that was transformed in 2017 into a printed magazine on Icelandic music.