I’m going to make a big statement here and say this is my favourite album of 2014! When I first heard the single King and Cross getting airplay on Triple J, I thought here we go. Another indi artist they’re going to stoke for a month until it’s dead. But they kept playing the song, and I liked it. So I went out on a whim and got the album.
I enjoy the unknown of buying an album before hearing much from the artist. In some cases it’s a terrible mistake as I found out with Kimbra’s album The Golden Echo (read here). Having only heard two Ásgeir songs off the radio, it was a head first purchase.
I opted to get the Vinyl of the album. It was only $10 more than the CD and it came with a digital download coupon. Winning already, plus I had just setup my new record player so it felt like it was meant to be. I took it home chucked it on the record player and SHIT… somehow the record was too big for my player….. As the record was going around it was hitting the needle arm holder. I tried a few other Vinyls, some of which played fine but others seemed to large as well. I got my file out and ground away a little more space for the records to play. Finally I was up and running.
What this album does so well is combine lovely close sounding acoustic instruments and electronic elements. The electronic sounds aren’t overbearing, they are subtle, ethereal and perfectly compliment the natural sounds. The songs vary in feel from the deep immersion “Higher” (Track 1) and “Going Home” (Track 7) to more intense upbeat “Torrent” (Track 6) and “In The Silence” (Track 2). Ásgeirs voice which is softly spoken amd heavily layered is one of the most unique parts to this album. Together it’s what I would consider a modern day take on folk music. Imagine Mumford and Sons meet James Blake if you can…
What makes this album so good though, and why does it have so much replay value? For me it comes down to three things; The instrumentation, the style and the dynamics. The instrumentation includes guitars, percussion, an array of brass, piano, synths and even a harmonium. (what is that)? This wide selection varies across each track so you’re introduced to new instruments as the journey goes along. The styles of each song then vary as well. Some are more full featured with the brass section going at it while others are driven by the underlying electronica elements. Some tracks are stripped right back to just acoustic guitar but among all this you’re comforted with the gentle and familiar vocals.
The biggest selling point for me is the dynamics. Where so much music today is pushed to the limit in digital loudness, this album has given itself room to breath. You can really hear the performances starting somewhere and building up to a climax. Being able to hear this human elements in the recordings adds a personal touch and emotional value to the songs. From start to end you can hear Ásgeir plucking the strings harder and harder, the brass players playing with more forte. It feels real. “Was There Nothing” (Track 5) is fast becoming one of my favourite tracks and is a perfect example of this dynamic range.
The amazing thing is this is Ásgeir first release. At the ambitious age of only 22 I can’t wait to hear more from this guy.