GABRÍEL ÓLAFS’ DECCA RECORDS U.S. DEBUT SOLON ISLANDUS OUT NOW
Album artwork; Press photo, credit: Anna Maggy
15 JULY 2022 (TORONTO, ON) — Solon Islandus, the new album from Icelandic composer and multi-instrumentalist Gabríel Ólafs, is out today via Decca Records U.S / Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company.—listen HERE and view the EPK HERE.
“I'm delighted to be sharing my new album Solon Islandus - the project has been my most ambitious yet and it's been a fantastic experience of compositional exploration writing for piano, strings, voices and varied ensembles,” says Ólafs. “It's a love letter to my homeland, its culture and literature, and in particular my favourite poet Davíð Stefánsson whose work inspired the whole project and is featured in readings throughout the album. It's offered me a chance to collaborate with visual artists, the dancers from the Iceland Dance Company and fantastic musicians to bring the stories to life. It's truly been an exciting process that I'm proud to be sharing.”
The album features the previously released title track “Solon Islandus,” shared alongside a video featuring dancers from the Iceland Dance Company, “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.”
GABRÍEL ÓLAFS—SOLON ISLANDUS
- The Memory
- Solon Islandus
- The Lily
- The Drifter
- The Restless Bird
- The Farewell
- The Caw
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