Picking up the batton on the latest release in the seemingly never-ending Late Night Tales series is Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds. More often known for his modern-classical inspired music, here Arnalds combines diverse soundcapes spanning techno, folk, pop, R&B and more classical sounds.
Upon hearing this album it is clear that Arnalds has poured considerable effort and heart into this album, his first real attempt at something like this mix. In his words, when he was first asked to do the mix his reaction was "This will be fun and easy, only a couple of days work. No problem!"... He claims he was still working on it six months later, weaving together music from his life, his friends and his collaborators, his influences.
The album opens with the dreamlike Jómsvíkingarímur Ýta Eigi Feldi Rór by Hjálmar Lárusson and Jónbjörn Gíslason before melting into Julianna Barwick's Forever... Both are like fragrent vapour hanging in your soul, softly billowing and gently pulling you in.
Odesza's How Did I Get Here appears in an exclusive instrumental form that transforms it into a slow and considered piece of leftfield beauty. Odesza give way to Anois' A Noise - a stilted moment of melodic folk that recalls The XX's male-female vocal harmonies and stripped production.
Jamie XX himself is here, providing remix duties for Four Tet on Lion, creating the kind of slow moving ambient beauty only he can. Jai Paul's Jasmine shows up like the guy everyone knows at a party, but it's still always so good and therefore hard to resent. Spooky Black's Pull is a liquid post-rock ballad, melodies slowly tumbling in freefall to create a monument to the dramas of human emotion.
The album's only real misstep is in Arnalds' own contribution in the form of three exclusives... His techno side project Kiasmos has the slowly building Orgoned and includes Kinesthesia under his own name - these are both fine if somewhat unspectacular. It is on the staple Late Night Tales cover-version where Arnalds properly stumbles - his take on Destiny's Child transforms the original into the sort of earnest folk cover that I thought we had all grown out of. It lacks all the sass of the original and if I were the subject of the song I'd only be further convinced to never say the singer's name again.
Olafur Arnald's Late Night Tales maintains the series' record for high quality and thoughtfully created mixes, only it loses its way in the final third... Yet everything up until that point is so strong that it balances it out to make the album a valuable listen.
Late Night Tales by Ólafur Arnalds is out now - check out the preview below: