Árstíðir – Nivalis
Indie Folk | Baroque Pop | Ambient
The new record from this Icelandic band creates a sound unlike anything I’ve encountered in a very long time, something equally ancient and modern. The resplendent strings recalling Iamthemorning, and the exquisite bittersweet harmonies reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel (most notably on ‘Conviction’), form a soft and refined atmosphere. It is almost spiritual, something delicate and intangible like a thin veil of mist, but one so all-encompassing as to shroud the rest of the world from view. At times Nivalis is the rare kind of record that has the potential to feel like an important experience rather than just a piece of music. The word “sonder” springs to mind; that sudden realisation that we are a tiny piece of an incomprehensibly big world, full of lives as important and nuanced as our own. The elegant soundscape of Nivalis is like a voice echoing through the ages reminding us of what really matters.
Ostentatious orchestration and introspective epiphanies are only part of this album’s charm however. Árstíðir have somehow managed to dress up the dark ambience in a veneer of bright melodies, memorable hooks and understated electronics in a way that feels like a natural progression rather than a jarring juxtaposition. The album pulls you in right from the start by opening with its two finest tracks. ‘While This Way’ sounds like it’s the soundtrack to the heart-wrenching climax of some award-winning drama. ‘Lover’, my personal highlight, is grand, moving and unashamedly pop, the perfect balance of authentic and accessible, and is simply begging to be heard on repeat. Sadly the second half of the album isn’t quite as potent as the first, and ‘In the Wake of You’ feels a tad heavy-handed with the electronic elements. As a whole however, Nivalis is a stunning record and stands as one of my favourite discoveries of 2018.