Thursday, February 28, 2013

Watch This: Ólafur Arnalds - "Old Skin"

Ólafur Arnalds' music plays out a wonderful duality between the pain of isolation and the multitudes contained within ourselves: it is often hard to tell if the stirring climaxes he reaches are meant to be uplifting or sad. So it goes with "Old Skin," one of the standout tracks from his upcoming LP, For Now I Am Winter. The accompanying music video, which I am told is his first live-action feature, beautifully illustrates the dichotomy at the center of Arnalds' work as it follows a senile lightguard keeper going about his daily routine. The video takes its time letting us get acquainted with him, as the camera settles on his inscrutable face as he calculates the significance of every next step he has to take; later on, this choice proves critical. There's a lot of focus on surfaces in this video, from the glassy ponds dotting the landscape to the bubbling cup of coffee that the old man stares into, and just as the song slowly unravels its fragile foundation of strings and piano to reveal a thumping heartbeat at its core, the video delves into the depths of the water to reveal a different world, one of radiant, colorful abandon. Yet the climax only muddles the meaning even further: even as our hero finds himself in the midst of camaraderie, his expression only appears lost in a horde of faces he does not know. Meanwhile, guest vocalist Arnór Dan repeats his refrain, "In these hands I'll hide," and piles on layer upon layer of counterpoint, all clashing to the point of incomprehension but all absolutely essential in the moment. By the ending, most viewers will be left with more questions than answers, but to be honest, some questions are better left unanswered--especially if the results are as gorgeously compelling as this.

You can watch the video for "Old Skin" above. For Now I Am Winter is set to release in the United States on April 2.

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