[4 November 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Over Light Earth follows in the footsteps of Daniel Bjarnason’s 2010 debut, Processions and his 2011 album SOLARIS, a collaboration with fellow Bedroom Community artist Ben Frost. The new album seems to maintain the collaborative spirit while also pushing Bjarnason’s own aesthetic in new directions. Using close-micing and multi-tracking, Bjarnason has created a unique intimacy for his orchestral arrangements, and with that intimacy he presents three compelling movements. The two-part title piece was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is based on the work of, among others, Jackson Pollack, and the music is fitting spacious, stretched out as if on a canvas, but the structure is slow to reveal itself, small moments, small sounds eventually forming a haunting whole. The second, three-part piece, Emergence is an even more patient sound, a slow and quiet rising of strings that builds to a series of ruptures and eruptions. It’s a more jagged piece than “Over Light Earth”, perhaps, though the shifts between build-up and crescendo sometimes feel too removed from one another. Third piece, “Solitude”, is the most fascinating of the three. It’s a reimagining of Bjarnason’s first piano concerto, here distorted—with the help Frost and Valgier Sigurosson—by electronics and other atmospherics. If it’s the quietest trip here, it’s also the one that seems to go the farthest, reaching back into Bjarnason’s past while also taking reticent steps into his future. The link between these three movements is loosely sonic, but more rooted in the impressive breadth and malleability of Bjarnason’s skill. He’s a dynamic modern composer, one worth watching more closely.