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Sudden Elevation

Ólöf Arnalds has been honing her craft in her native Iceland for many years now. Following stints as a touring musician with múm, and myriad collaborations with her compatriots, she finally released her debut album Við Og Við in 2007. Her next outing was a more eclectic affair, marking a departure from her minimalistic roots and encompassing a wide array of influences and guest musicians. This month sees the release of Sudden Elevation, marking another adventure in her musical odyssey: it is the first album she's recorded solely in English.

You get the sense of a singer gently probing a foreign language, her tongue tentatively pronouncing every vowel and consonant. Whilst her sound is much more focussed on this record than on her previous album, Innundir Skinni, there is a sense of someone cautiously testing the boundaries of her musical knowledge. Much of the material was recorded with her long time collaborator Skúli Sverrisson in a seaside cabin; adding an organic and earthy feel to the production. Her beautiful crystalline voice is framed by a rugged and sparse backdrop, trickling with purity and feeling as fresh as a Spring morning.

Sudden Elevation is a testimony to the continuing experimentation and evolution in Arnalds's work. Her music is highly intuitive, but she also shows a propensity to absorb events around her and channel them into her writing. The intensely delicate 'Return Again' oozes with a palpable sense of yearning, a song so heartbreakingly fragile and beautiful that you fear it may shatter at any moment. The distinct troubadour style hints at years of classical training, harking back to her early work. It is a song that seems so urgent yet timeless.

First single 'A Little Grim' exemplifies the great diversity of tone at work here, and heralds the distinct folk ethos that flows through beautifully assembled songs. Whilst most of her time may be spent within her homeland, she clearly draws her influences from far and wide. 'German Fields' is a more upbeat song revealing another weapon in her armoury. 'Bright and Still' embodies her more playful and whimsical side.

The result is an album which is beautiful in its simplicity and daring in its omissions. Arnalds really shines when all embellishments are stripped away, allowing her voice to take centre-stage. There is a sense of isolation which runs like a seam through Sudden Elevation, but on occasion her music is let free to take to the air and soar over the volcanic peaks, leaving the shores of her native Eylenda behind.