Olafur Arnalds, Paul Giallorenzo | Museum of Contemporary Art | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Olafur Arnalds, Paul Giallorenzo All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard

When: Sun., Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m. 2011

OLAFUR ARNALDS Sigur Ros has taken fellow Icelander Olafur Arnalds on the road as an opening act, and it's easy to hear why. The pianist and composer makes pretty, quasi-classical instrumental pieces by heaping melancholy strings atop a hybrid of postminimalist music and pop. His albums, like the recent . . . And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness (Erased Tapes), sometimes sound like the parts that Icelandic string quartet Amina adds to Sigur Ros's records, played in isolation—though he takes a more dramatic, sweeping orchestral approach. His music privileges softness—plush textures, meditative tones, gentle dynamics—and only occasionally revs up into a slow-building and somewhat predictable crescendo. Repeated rhythmic figures shift gradually into and out of phase with one another while repeated melodic phrases subtly change shape—it's pretty easy to hear the influence of postminimalism—and the structures remain reliably simple and accessible. It's undeniably beautiful, but I've had little luck remembering any of it once it's over. For these performances, Arnalds will play keyboards, joined by a string quartet. Paul Giallorenzo opens the MCA show.

Peter Margasak

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