As mentioned previously, I’m now contributing reviews of some new Icelandic releases to ROK – Icelandic Music Review. The most recent has some thoughts on the new electronica album from EinarIndra, You Sound Asleep, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And as an added bonus, he’s going to be performing at Iceland Airwaves 2014, so hopefully I’ll get to see him live before the year is out! You can read the review HERE, and make sure to check out the rest of the ROK website while you’re there!
Updated June 2021
ROK is no more, so below is the review originally posed there.
One of the interesting things that happens when you start a music blog is after a while you start getting emails from bands, promoters, and just random people asking you to check out certain band or album. Sometimes the recommendations turn out to be stuff you’re not interested in, but I’ve also latched on to a handful of amazing releases by new, underground, or just plain not-well-known musicians, and those moments make it worth the time it takes to wade through the other stuff. The suggestions I get from Iceland tend to be better than average, so when someone mentioned EinarIndra’s new release “You Sound Asleep” it was a given that I would be checking it out.
I’d never heard of electronic artist EinarIndra prior to listening to this five song, 27-minute album that came out in February 2014. I’ve only been into electronica for maybe the last few years, so while I’m no expert on the genre, I get the benefit of the fact that I lack a frame of reference… I go into most things without any real preferences and more curiosity than anything else. So when the opening track “Whales” started off with what sounded like whale song sounds, but that I think are actually made by Einar’s voice, I was pretty much hooked. This was going to be an interesting ride, and probably something different. The tempo stayed fluid, thoughout, like the ocean itself, and when the actual vocals came in they had a bit of a modulated lilt of repetitive phrases that, if you close your eyes, make you feel like you were floating just below the surface of the water.
So You Sound Asleep is ocean music, right? Well… no. “Places” follows “Whales” with a quiet piano opening, and while there is a flow to the slowly moving pace of the electronic music in the background, it’s the piano and vocals that stay up front. It’s not fluid like “Whales;” it’s desperate. Haunting. More like a walk through the woods at twilight, or in the early morning fog. The pace increases about half way through, ditching the piano and replacing it with an organ, picking up in intensity. Are you scared out there in the forest? Is your heart rate going up? Because the music is making me feel a little anxious like I would if I was out there alone. In the end EinarIndra brings us back down with a drum beat that sounds like your heart echoing inside your head, getting a bit slower, until the piano comes back in. You found your way out. You’re safe now.
Wait… what’s this? Is it Daft Punk? No, it’s the third track, “The Bearded Man P.2.” But it sounds like it could be a more mainstream electronic piece, though certainly minimalist in its beats and keyboards, with heavily synthesized vocals and even some harmony. It’s a step away from the natural environmental themes of the first two songs, at least to me. But it’s a lot easier to move your body to, and there’s a lot to be said for that.
“Lose My Self” brings it back down a bit to a slower pace, and now I feel like I’m back outside again, on a wet day after the rain has stopped, but the temperature cool and there are dark clouds and you can hear the water drip off of the plants. The vocals have that surreal, repetitive, echoey quality from “Places,” and at times the percussion really does sound like dripping water. EinarIndra is indeed losing himself, his voice sounding spectral and distant, pleading, desperate… like a voice inside your head. Is it your voice? Are you losing yourself? Is this what madness sounds like? It isn’t changes in pace that give this song power. It’s the methodical relentlessness of its own minimalism.
You Sound Asleep closes with “Mountain Blue P.2 (feat. Mama Wolf),” a song that takes a more up tempo approach like “The Bearded Man P.2.” Mama Wolf’s female vocals at various points in the song give this a bit of a different feel from the rest of the album, almost making you feel like the first four songs were an emotional struggle but now, at the end, Mama Wolf is here for you and will take care of you. It’s going to be all right. You made it through your struggles and came out the other side to find happiness.
I don’t know EinarIndra’s vision for You Sound Asleep. I may be totally projecting myself onto this minimalistic, often atmospheric electronica. But there’s a lot of emotion squeezed into these five songs, I’m sure of that. And I for one am glad that he had the courage to give us all a peek inside and shared what was there musically.