Monday, 28 April 2014

The Playlist: Ólöf Arnalds

I first came across singer-songwriter Ólöf Arnalds when I was in Reykjavík covering the contemporary orchestral music festival Tectonics. She was singing in an orchestral piece, Og upphófst raustin, which she co-wrote with established Icelandic composer Skúli Sverrison. 

Her voice is very sweet and fragile, yet also powerful enough to contend with a symphony orchestra in the main auditorium of Harpa concert hall. I rushed to 'google' her as soon as I got back to my hotel room.

Songs like Surrender, Innundir Skinni and German Fields are delightfully quirky yet, as I said, powerful in their sweetness. She has collaborated with Björk and performed for Yoko Ono last time she visited Iceland.

Arnalds has released three albums: Við og Við, Innundir Skinni and Sudden Elevation.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Agnes Obel @ St George's, Bristol

Live, the smoke and depth of Agnes Obel's voice are even more apparent than in the award-winning albums. On Friday night I was privileged to be part of the cultivated crowd that congregated at St George's in Bristol to see the Danish singer perform.

It was amazing to hear songs from her two albums – Philharmonics (2011) and Aventine (2013) – in the flesh, the live setting adding a greater depth to the music. Obel throws out her lyrics with passion from the piano stool, all the while teasing out beautiful phrases from the keyboard. She was accompanied sensitively by her cellist Anne Christin Schwartz and violinist Mika Posen throughout in arrangements I recognised from the recordings. 

The set incorporated solo piano interludes from the albums as well as including some real gems: Riverside, Dorian and Words Are Dead really stood out. She ended with The Curse from her second album Aventine. Already one of my favourites of hers, it was a revelation live. Those beautiful melodies and careful lyrics were just incredible with the pizzicato string parts and swelling piano chords amplified through the auditorium of St George's.

Angus obel has an irresistible charm and on Friday I discovered her ability to hold a sell-out audience spellbound as well. A magical evening.

Agnes Obel at St Georges, Bristol | photo: Alex Brüel Flagstad


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Art: Erró: The World Today, Reykjavík Art Museum

Last Friday, on a typical Icelandic spring day – all gale-force winds and biting rain – I wrapped myself in a large woollen scarf and bowed my head against sheets of icy, horizontal sleet to 'see the sights'. I soon sought refuge in the nearest building open to the public, and that happened to be Reykjavík Art Museum

Currently showing at the Hafnarhus building of the museum, just two minutes away from the hotel I was staying in, are three exhibitions of contemporary art, each as well-curated and thought-provoking as the next.

The main retrospective is that of Icelandic surrealist/pop/collage artist Erró. In Erró: The World Today canvasses filled with satirical detail and brash (often dark) humour jump loudly out of the stark walls of the gallery space. Disney characters often pop up, as do images from Hollywood's iconic Golden Age, all asking questions about how technology and war and love (or the absolute terrifying lack of it) has changed/is changing the course of history.

The Cadences of Line and Colour takes up several rooms and comprises of works in various mediums by mainly Icelandic artists. An exploration of how painters turn to aesthetic theories of music to develop a wider freedom in visual art, highlights include Kjarval's Notes Played on a Piano, Guomundsdottir's Agitato and Gíslason's Symphony. Ion Lucin's prize-winning video, Spherikal, is a wonderfully striking part of the exhibition (watch it below – it's mesmerising).

The third exhibition is of Iceland's contribution to the 2013 Venice Biennial by Katrin Siguro. The work, entitled Foundation, is a large installation comprising of a raised floor extending beyond the walls of the exhibition into an empty industrial space. It is finished with beautiful handmade tiles and visitors are invited to walk on the artwork, bringing the worlds of practicality and aesthetics together.

Erró: The World Today | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Erró: Pop's History

The Cadences of Line and Colour | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Katrin Siguro: Foundation | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Katrin Siguro: Foundation | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Erró: The World Today runs until 24th August 2014. Visit:

Monday, 14 April 2014

My weekend in Iceland

My latest assignment for work was to travel to Iceland and cover Tectonics, a festival of contemporary experimental orchestral music, over there. Apart from the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful and dynamic parts of the world, I got the chance to hear a wealth of inspiring music, wander to my heart's content with my Pentax and a couple of rolls of 35mm (one of my favourite things to do in the whole world), and breath in an endless supply of ice-fresh North Atlantic air.

It was a real treat and I came back feeling invigorated. Before I write up my little piece for the magazine (to appear in a future issue of BBC Music Magazine – watch this space) I thought I would share some of the snaps I took over there.

Harpa concert hall, Raykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Inside; looking out | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
The old harbour, Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Reykjavík harbour | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Ordiderfraulst | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Harpa | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Harpa; looking up | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Harpa | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
The old town, Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

In the old town, Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Inside Hallgrímskirkja | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Hallgrímskirkja | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Street art in Reykjavík | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

The Bear | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Visit: to see more of my travel photography.