June 24, 2022—Icelandic composer and multi-instrumentalist Gabríel Ólafs unveils a new track “Solon Islandus” alongside a video directed by Vidar Logi, choreographed by Andrean Sigurgeirsson and featuring dancers from the Iceland Dance Company—listen HERE and watch the video HERE.
The title track follows the first two singles/videos, “The Drifter,” which Atwood Magazine called “Beautifully tender and achingly visceral, a transformative emotional outpouring that leaves listeners in a state of wistful wonder,” and “The Lily,” praised by Cool Hunting as an “exquisite sonic journey”—watch Ólafs perform “The Lily” live for the Harpa Sessions here.
An ambitious concept album and transmedia project that pays homage to the artistic spirit of the people of Iceland, Ólafs’ major label debut is a work of personal discovery—an exploration of the artistry, culture and place that has shaped Gabríel’s identity. The record draws inspiration from the writing of one of Iceland’s great poets, Davíð Stefánsson, in melodic works for piano, ensemble and choir with spoken word elements.
Ólafs was read Stefánsson’s poems as a child by both his father and grandfather, and he especially fell in love with his earliest poetry collection, Black Feathers (Svartar Fjaðrir), published one hundred years earlier when the poet was the same age as Ólafs when he was making the new album. While recording, Ólafs would read the poems and try to capture their essence in melody.
The title Solon Islandus comes from Stefánsson’s only novel, the tragic tale of a real-life Icelandic drifter, Sölvi Helgason. A composer with a longstanding love of film, Ólafs takes a “directorial” view of composition—creating motifs and themes to represent characters and emotions. “Tracks like ‘The Drifter’ and ‘Júlíana’ are inspired by characters from the novel,” says Ólafs. “It’s almost as if this was a movie, and these are their themes.”
While influenced by a particular quiet and delicate Icelandic sound verging on minimalist, Ólafs is especially drawn to melodies. “Tchaikovsky, Morricone, John Williams, they can all write a good melody. Nothing really compares.” Working at his piano, Ólafs always begins with melodies, recording the results with voice memos on his phone. “I have maybe 200 of them,” Ólafs notes. For Solon Islandus, he tried to simplify his melodies as much as possible. “I wanted to match the poems, which are straight to the point, straight to the heart,” he explains.
Gabríel Ólafs was only 14 when he wrote the song that landed him his first record deal, which saw his first album, Absent Minded, released on an independent label five years later. His tracks have since been streamed tens of millions of times online; his music is, writes PopMatters, “brimming with beauty.”