This place was a shelter

Ólafur Arnalds – Kulturkirche, Cologne; Mai 23rd, 2013

There is a first time for everything. I have been to concerts to see the support act, I have been to one concerts to accompany a friend who was there just to see the guitarist, but I have never been to a “classical music meets electronica meets all sorts of sounds” – concert of a guy I only knew as a producer to see the band’s cellist and the violinist (who happened to play the viola that night) playing. 🙂 Either way, there I was at a church in Cologne to see and most of all hear Ólafur Arnalds whose music I had no concept of whatsoever; just to see Karl and Hallgrímur from Árstíðir. There have been crazier things I’ve done for music. 😉

What can I say? If I had any expectations it wasn’t this, but to be honest, I really had no idea what was in for. I only knew the video of ‘Old Skin’ which included singing so I guessed the concert might be somewhere along those lines. I soon learned that I was wrong and everything would be instrumental that night, but it did not make it any less amazing. Going to see someone new is always exciting, because it can turn out to be anything from elating to disastrous, but it’s always an adventure and usually I can find something I enjoy. This time, it was perfect. Certainly not the music I usually listen to, but all the more wonderful because it was so unusual in my little world. Certainly worth the trip. 🙂

Still tired from the previous night’s Jim Kroft gig I didn’t really feel like going at all, but I had my ticket so I went. Slept on the train a little and felt much better when I arrived. It was raining so I was happy to find a canvas roof at the entrance. Being the first one there didn’t bother me – I knew it would guarantee me a good seat. 🙂 Got a first taste of the night’s music from the outside and it sounded promising. More people arrived and conversations made waiting much more interesting. Hallgrímur walked by so I went over to hug him and we chatted a bit.

The venue was rather beautiful and the acoustics were great as often in churches. The support act was Douglas Dare, a British singer and piano player. He played really nice music and I especially liked his voice. He introduced some of his songs, telling us one was about an imagined affair of his grandfather and it felt a bit strange to play it at a church. He didn’t have a CD out yet, but download codes for a few tracks. I missed getting one after the show, but did enjoy his set. 🙂

Ólafur walked out all alone at first, greeted us and took a seat behind the piano. He asked us to all sing one note, which we finally did after much laughter. He recorded it and incorporated it into the first song. That was only one of many different sounds that were part of the music. I won’t even try to take it apart or categorize what I heard. Fact it, it sounded beautiful and strange and mind-blowing. The perfect mixture of classical and modern elements. During the first song, he was joined by a string quartet plus a guy who played the synthesizer and trombone on several songs.

The music was really captivating. I had to close my eyes a few times just to cope with the intensity. Some of it was soft and slow, some loud and fast. One of the pieces in the beginning reminded me of ‘Shades’, at least concerning the dynamics of the music. I loved how the songs flowed into each other with hardly leaving any room to think about what was happening. I still have not quite figured out what the music did to me, but it spoke to me on several levels. Wow, just wow!

In addition to the music the lights were great too, very fitting. There was much variety in light and sound. The mixture of (for me) unusual sounds and classical instruments worked extremely well. I thoroughly enjoyed listening and watching. Hallgrímur and Karl both got a solo too. 🙂

Ólafur was chatty and talked a lot about the songs and how they developed. The song ‘Poland’ happened after a sleepless night on the road where they all ended up drinking vodka on the tour bus and were getting sad by the morning. Another song was originally intended for a commercial about bathtubs, but “not stupid enough” for that. Funny. For me it was a night full of wonders and when it ended I was left with a happy smile on my face. 🙂

After the show I said hello to Karl, we hugged and chatted for quite some time. Hallgrímur joined us for a while too. I ended up being the last person to leave the church and I had not even talked to anyone else (or bought a CD). I’m quite sure there will be a next time though….


þú ert sólin
þú ert jörðin
Tomorrow’s Song

Hands, be still
Only the winds
Beth’s Theme

Glyepa Okkur
We (too) Shall Rest
This place was a shelter

Words of Amber

Undan Hulu

Near Light


Lag fyrir ömmu

pictures of this concert


This place was a shelter — 2 Comments

  1. hi mate
    do you remember the name of a female violinist?

    Thank u 😉