To say that Icelandic Anna Thorvaldsottir’s major label debut Aerial is as wispy and light-hearted as its titles suggests couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Right from the very start of Thorvaldsottir’s Aerial, the gravity of the record is immediately apparent. The record’s opening piece is deeply dramatic, uncharacteristically closed and pent in for a composer exposed to such open-air environments, separating Thorvaldsottir from the pigeonholing standard-faire alt-contemporary composers of her peers.
There is never a sense of weightlessness or rather calming tones to Thorvaldsottir’s Aerial, rather providing a much mildly amusing tenseness throughout. Thorvaldsottir reluctantly deviates from soaring strings and gives a greater emphasis to bellowing winds that resonate long after they are heard. A dreary darkness hangs for much of the record’s title piece “Aerial” and even when themes of heroism begin to stir three-fourths in, Thorvaldsottir never once gives in to any desires for adulation.
Thorvaldsottir also succeeds where many alt-composers fail to exploit: silence. On many parts of Aerial, silence is the x-factor that Thorvaldsottir uses to her advantage. The pacing of the second half of Aerial is almost outright controlled by the timing of silent interjections that add to the emotional depth of her craftwork.
While Aerial is inherently (and in some instances passively) dark and somber, Thorvaldsottir provides glimpses of light in subtle but sporadic atmospheric touches, none more evident than in the closing “Shades of Silence.” The tone is consistent throughout the record but Thorvaldsottir’s unpredictable writing and experimentation provides all the more better vividness.
To some extent, Aerial’s lack of upswing movements may alienate many expecting such lush landscapes expected for composers of her background. However, it is Aerial‘s willingness to stay the course of heavy and steadily dramatic tones that allows Thorvaldsottir to not only strikingly stand out but ultimately succeed in her ambitiously complex vision.
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