Keeping a finger on the pulse

Ragnar Ólafsson’s Urges (to run)

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Words by Stína Satanía

Ragnar Ólafsson is a versatile musician who has established his name on the Icelandic music scene with such bands as Árstíðir, Ask the Slave, In Siren or Lightspeed Legend. Playing almost everything from chamber folk through jazz to progressive metal, he has tirelessly surprised listeners with his numerous sonic hats. On Urges, his debut solo LP released in June 2017, Ragnar once again reveals a new face. This artwork is different from all his previous achievements and goes a long way into his singer-songwriter outfit.

This solo project is perhaps a little sidestep in Ragnar’s music career. Labelled a heartbreak album, Urges is packed with emotional and intimate songs. Lyrically, darkness is everywhere. The songs are heartfelt but sorrowful and mirror dealing with changes and experiencing the lows of life.

The spotlight stays on Ragnar: his well-shaped melodies, his voice and guitar. His songs are finely crafted, also accompanied by a ukulele and a banjo, with just a pinch of piano, synthesizers or Rhodes. Luckily, Ragnar also makes use of his most personal asset: his voice can be smooth and delicate as a falling feather, then become harsh and almost aggressive.

The album opens with the soft acoustic melodies of ‘SSDD’, where a harmonica adds some melancholy to the gentle and fragile vocals. The next track ‘Wine’ is lo-fi and lovesick, while ‘War’ charms you with simple ukulele picking. The piano-driven ‘Relations’ permeates with sorrow. This song sounds particularly gloomy, with the echo of voices from a playground and a lyrical reflection about growing old.

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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.

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