Music truly is the international language. It is the language of phrases, beats, notes and time signatures designed to evoke emotion and transfer that feeling to others. Where oral or written language fail, music is an expression everyone can universally understand. I recently heard a band from Iceland called Árstíðir. Not only can I not pronounce their name, I doubt I could carry on an intelligent conversation with the members of the band; Daniel Auðunsson, Gunnar Már Jakobsson, Karl James Pestka, and Ragnar Ólafsson. The band formed in 2008 in Reykjavík, Iceland and has released three studio albums and two EP’s. Árstíðir became somewhat of a sensation in 2013 when a youtube video of them singing an Icelandic hymn in a train station in Wuppertal, Germany went viral and to date has had almost 4 million views.
The band has just released their third studio album entitled “Hvel” and to see it classified, as I have, as indie folk music just doesn’t do it justice. The musical makeup of the band is acoustically based with guitars, violins, and piano. This album is a bit of a departure for the band as they are leaning more toward synthesizers, electronic instruments and live drums for this outing. All four members of the band also sing and one cannot discount the soaring harmonies and vocal interplay as instruments all their own. Árstíðir’s music combines elements of classical, folk, and progressive rock into a winning formula. I don’t know this for a fact but if I had to guess, I would say that the band is heavily influenced by the Norse legend and mythology so prevalent in the part of the world they call home. I say I don’t know this as fact but I can hear those themes in the music either overtly or surreptitiously.
If I had to draw comparisons musically, I would have to say that Árstíðir picks up on the tradition of groups like Fairport Convention, Renaissance, Lindisfarne, and to a lesser extent bands like Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd with a slightly more modern and sophisticated palette. Each and every song on the album is an aural sensation and will have a wide appeal to music fans of any genre.
Uncle Duke; a.k.a. Rob Penland is the producer and host of "The Mad Music Asylum" a 4 hour weekly syndicated radio show and now a 24 hour streaming internet station.