Music can be exploited for commercial agendas. It happens all the time. Music is most sincere when it is an uncompromising reflection of the artist’s heart. That is exactly what I hear on the new album from composer Atli Örvarsson. The album is called “You Are Here”, and it is a serene, beatific experience. It released on July 3rd.
Some of you may recognize Atli’s name. He is a film and video game composer known for such films as Vantage Point, Season of the Witch, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Fourth Kind, and one of my guilty pleasures, Babylon A.D. He’s done extensive work in television, as well. Many times, as I’ve noticed, Atli’s work is the highlight of the film, and that speaks to his grace and skill. Atli comes to us from Iceland.
Atli’s music is cinematic, post-classical, and ambient in nature. His style of ambiance is less about texture and atmosphere, and more about gorgeous melodies, vivid pictures, and nostalgic feelings. Many of the songs are slow burns, but they are never dull, yet almost always grey. You will hear beautiful piano compositions, slight electronic accents, and backing orchestrations that bring everything to vibrant life. His music feels like it is telling a story, one that you already know deeply in your soul, and somehow this album brings all those emotions and forgotten memories to the surface. It’s an exquisite work he has accomplished here.
“You Are Here” is one of those albums that fits many different moods. If I need something relaxed and low stress, this does the job wonderfully. If I need something pensive and deep, this delivers. If I need something emotive and cinematic, this album will have me weeping. This is music that feeds off the listener to some extent, and its abstractions and subtleties enhance whatever your heart is dwelling upon at that moment. Soon enough, the music will burrow its way into your subconscious. Let it.
This album has eight tracks and clocks in around 35 minutes in length, which I think is perfect for this type of music. Alti released a couple tracks as singles, those being “Húm, Part 1” (meaning “dusk”) and “Dropar” (meaning “drops”). As you may guess, the former is part one of a two part song. It starts the album with delicacy and subtlety. It has a perfectly hazy atmosphere with piano and violins gently striking through the mist. It builds slowly and wonderfully with other layers coming into the mix. Part 2 has more of a direct melodic rhythm and even a faint electronic loop that mounts into a grand climax of strings and tender keys. What a way to start the album! “Dropar” is a hesitant track, one that feels like it has something to share, but wants to ease the listener into the experience. It offers bright moments of activity and wonder, but transitions smoothly back and forth between bustle and intricacy.
Much of the album plays out this way, though the emotions portrayed change and so does the way the listener processes them. My two favorite tracks on the album are “Vor” (meaning “Spring”) and “Solid Ground”, the closer. “Vor” is where Atli really begins to inject light. It is a glorious, nostalgic, and hopeful song: one that sees the beauty in new life and fresh possibilities. The melodic climax is a rush of sound that will wash over your mind, leaving you feeling truly alive. “Solid Ground” is the height of subtlety. It ends the album with calmness, cautious notes, and spacious atmosphere, almost like you are finally home. You can feel far more than the music communicates on the surface here, which is why I love it.
I do not pretend to know Atli’s mind, and I am not sure if this is meant to be a concept album or not. However, the feelings of dusk and gathering darkness at the beginning slowly transition into smaller, more uncertain actions and feelings; these, in turn, sweep upwards with the coming of Spring and Life, and thus hope is anchored within us. That is what “You Are Here” offers my own heart, and that is why this album is so magnificent. I hope that Atli will offer us even more music outside his soundtracks, as I feel like he has much to say, and I have much to learn.
Find Atli Örvarsson online: