As one of Iceland’s most successful exports, singer-songwriter Ásgeir has always pushed the boundaries of his thoughtful brand of folk-pop.
On his new lo-fi interpretation of the album ‘Time On My Hands’, he’s captured an authentic style by recording acoustically, direct to a four-track tape recorder. The rework album is out on September 8th on One Little Independent Records.
‘Time On My Hands’ saw Ásgeir in a state of self-reflection and experimentation, having spent much of the last few years in his home and in the studio deeply engrossed in writing, recording, translating and producing. It was praised by The Independent, MOJO, NME, The Line Of Best Fit, Clash Magazine, BBC 6 Music and Radio X.
Ásgeir tells us;
“The idea was to do an acoustic lo-if version of the album and to detox from all the production and computer use. We used an old 4 track cassette recorder, sometimes recorded straight on to the cassettes and sometimes we ran audio from Pro Tools and through the recorder to get that flavour. It’s very lo-fi sounding and didn’t take a lot of time to make, which was the objective, not to overthink anything and just move on. Some of the songs sound almost like demos while others are more developed, with string arrangements written by Þórður Magnússon and some overdubbed guitars or synths.”
On ‘Time on My Hands (Lo-Fi Version)’, he’s shifted his interest in the layered production of the original album towards a more stripped back meditation, and it’s no less compelling. In fact, new tracks are elevated and enchanting, with a serenity and an intimacy that can only come from this kind of recording process. Gentle, contemplative acoustics underpin his effortlessly harmonised falsetto. These tracks carry a wistful yet soothing quality, with subtle additional textures providing depth.
The rolling landscapes aesthetic of ‘Time On My Hands’ was inspired by Ásgeir’s own relationship with music over the last few years, consuming mostly while he was running outdoors, or while on long drives. He says that “some of the albums or music that stand out from that time were Caribou’s album Suddenly, Caroline Polachek’s Pang, Dijon, Altopalo, Big Thief, Michael Kiwanuka, Sault, Ethan Gruska, Blake Mills and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. This music probably has something to do with how the record came out, combined with earlier influences”.
It opens with the assured relaxation of its title track and ‘Borderland’ where subtle instrumental flourishes colour vibrant lyricism. It’s clear from the beginning that the collection is built around visuals of glacial scenery as Ásgeir soars above an icy terrain of enchanting melodic soundscapes with cinematic lucidity.
A strong breeze carries us into full flight with ‘Snowblind’, a track that boasts an unforgettable climatic arrangement.
‘Vibrating Walls’ is melancholy in its delivery, while ‘Blue’ is light and crisp. The towering strides of ‘Giantess’ build steadily, exploring a haunting and powerful mythological allegory. It’s on tracks like this, and the retrospective ‘Like I Am’, that one can fully appreciate the beauty of Ásgeir’s lyrics, worked into English from their original Icelandic with his brother Steini and Pétur Ben. As has become traditional for them, much of the album is also inspired by the writing of Ásgeir’s father, celebrated poet Einar Georg Einarsson.
Gorgeous ballad ‘Waiting Room’ and the hypnotic ‘Golden Hour’ work together like hazy memories of carefree, simpler times; walking by lakes, forests and countrysides, reflecting on the past, and things that might’ve been different. Album closer ‘Limitless’ philosophizes on our individualist need to consume and the insignificance of our daily struggles in comparison to the scope of the wider universe. It asks the listener to allow themselves to see things from a different perspective.
As ruminated on in ‘Borderland’, both albums ask us to allow ourselves to glide over borders, both the physical, the ones we put up ourselves, and those between reality and imagination. They’re about freedom, the desire for adventure, and taking flight to escape isolation, as well as appreciating the natural wonders that surround us every day.
‘Time on My Hands (Lo-Fi Version)’ was recorded in Studio Hljóðrit where Ásgeir has always recorded, working closely with producer Guðmundur Kristinn Jónsson.