30.4.2014 Wolomin, Powiatowe Centrum Dziedzictwa i Twórczości
Before retreating to the studio to record their third album, Árstíðir went on touring Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland for a week. Recently shrunk from sextet to quartet, the band is taking a slightly different direction in their music and was eager to try some of the new material in front of an audience. If anyone had feared they could change beyond recognition, they quickly learned it wasn’t the case. The sound is still unmistakably Árstíðir. Wolomin was the 6th stop on the tour and the audience saw a band well in tune with each other delivering a beautiful show.
The venue was nicely filled, the audience a mixture of fans and newcomers of all ages. The air was buzzing with anticipation even before the concert and when Árstíðir finally walked on stage, they were greeted with loud cheers. They started with “Heiðin” and “Látum okkur sjá”, two familiar songs from their first album, before playing the first new song with “The Cannon”, one of my personal favorites. The sound was crisp and clear, each song equally well received. Within moments I found myself drawn into the music, forgetting the world around me. No matter where this band plays and not matter what state of mind I am in before the concert, they always manage to capture me, and whenever I look around I can see that many in the audience feel the same.
In the current line up Árstíðir consist of Daníel Auðunsson (guitar, vocals), Gunnar Már Jakobsson (baritone guitar, vocals), Karl James Pestka (violin, vocals) and Ragnar Ólafsson (piano, vocals). For the tour they added Guillaume Lagraviere (cello, vocals) who had already accompanied them in November last year. Two of the band members changed instruments and the songs had to be rearranged. Yet, the songs did not lose any of their power or their magic and I very much doubt that people who had never seen them before would have guessed anything used to be different. It looked and sounded as if the band had effortlessly reinvented themselves. The old songs shone just as brightly as they used to and the new ones allowed us to take a glimpse at the future.
Like so many times before I was amazed at how well the guys mastered their chosen instruments. Not only did they play well individually, but what really made the concert magical was that the music put together was so much more than the sum of its parts. With guitars, piano, violin and cello, mixed with some samplers and effects they create a unique sound that makes it impossible to put them into one genre. And as if the playing was not enough, they know how to sing too – their vocal arrangements were just as magical as the instrumentation.
They continued mixing new songs in with the old ones, sometimes telling a few words about them. My highlight that night was a brand new song that didn’t even have a title yet and that I instantly fell in love with. There were many other great moments though like the proggish “Eris”, the hauntingly beautiful instrumental “Ró” or the best rendition of “Shades” into “Tárin” that I have heard in a long time. The set ended with the powerful “Kill us”, a song that constantly changes and sounds nothing like it did when they first recorded it. Afterwards the audience would not stop clapping, most people getting out of their seats for standing ovations. We were rewarded with two encores, “Nù gleymist ég” and the a cappella arrangement of the Faroese “Góða veislu gjöra skal”. It was over in a heartbeat and I’m confident we would have all loved to hear more, but all good things have to end some time and we had some good memories to take home.
After the concert the band came out to sign autographs and chat with people, taking the time for a few words with everyone, fulfilling picture requests with a smile. It looked to me as if almost everyone in the audience stayed to have a few words with them and there were happy smiles all around, mine included. They won’t be back on tour until September. I, for one, am already counting down the days.
For those interested in the Kickstarter campaign to support the band’s upcoming album, go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arstidir/arstiir-music-from-the-heart-of-iceland-our-third/