NYC-based Icelander Úlfur releases his stunning new album Arborescence today through figureight records – a new label founded by musician mastermind Shahzad Ismaily.
A unique talent, Úlfur (Luxembourg-born, Iceland-raised, NYC-residing Úlfur Hansson) is known as much for his genre-defying experiments with homemade instruments and electronics as he is for his work with prominent Icelandic trailblazers Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) and Ólöf Arnalds, and Sweden’s Anna Von Hauswolff. As a composer – a graduate of Mills College, California – Úlfur in 2013 received the prestigious Young Composer of the Year award from the International Rostrum of Composers, and has had works commissioned by The Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet and l’Orchestre de Radio France.
Arborescence, his brave and immersive newest LP, navigates a trail between these many worlds. Its pieces are longform and dreamily (un-)structured, made up of soundscapes, electro-acoustic processing, vocals, synthesizers, electronic production, all framed by intricate, cinematic string arrangements (performed by label-mate and múm co-founder Gyda Valtysdottir) and cataclysmic explosions of noise (provided in part by the transcendent and superlative drumming of black metal hero Greg Fox). The record alternately traverses moments of stillness and vulnerability and moments of violence, covering all the ground between as it travels.
“The title is derived from that type of movement,” Úlfur writes. “Arborescence – the phenomenon of branching out, following the path of least resistance, growing from a seed, or a bolt of lightning as it rips through the sky, connecting different outcomes, possibilities to a single point of origin.”
Arborescence was produced by Randall Dunn (SUNN O))), Earth, Marissa Nadler, etc.), and also features the wonderful musicianship of Skúli Sverrisson (Blonde Redhead, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Laurie Anderson, Ólöf Arnalds) and Zeena Parkins (Björk, Jim O’Rourke, Pauline Oliveros, Fred Frith, John Zorn).