New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Solon Islandus, Gabriel Ólafs' Decca Records U.S./ Universal Music
debut, is set for release July 15. 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."
SOLON ISLANDUS Tracklisting:
The Restless Bird