Contemporary classical? Experimental? Ambient? Folk? Luxembourg-born, Icelandic-raised, NYC-based composer, producer and songwriter Úlfur Hansson likes to have it together on the same album, and sometimes at the same time.
Inspired by the eponymous phenomenon of “branching out, following the path of least resistance, growing from a seed, or a bolt of lightning as it rips through the sky, connecting different outcomes, possibilities to a single point of origin” – Úlfur’s debut album “Arborescence” is indeed a work of a musician fascinated and tempted by too many music directions to stop at anything straightforward.
He starts with a massive noise-meets-orchestra jam in the title track, but over the next six compositions he takes us through at least twice as many moods and styles. Next comes the cinematic second track, “Tómið Titrar”, unhurried, airy, charmingly lost between neo-classical background, ambient-y rhythm and an acoustic miniature. But then – turn again! – come electronic experiments of “Rhinoceros”.
Yet the album also brings simple beauty of more traditional type, like “Fovea” and the closing track “Vakandi”. These much-needed breathing space for the listener show Úlfur is both a wary screenwriter – and a talented songwriter.
Over the last years, Úlfur has worked with the likes of Jónsi, the frontman of Sigur Rós and an inspiring solist, and Ólöf Arnalds, the singer-songwriter behind one of Iceland’s sweetest songs of this century. And for “Arborescence”, he’s invited a range of acclaimed guests like former Múm member Gyða Valtýsdóttir, who’s behind one of the best Icelandic albums of 2016.
Demonstrating the more and more default model of 21st century artist, Úlfur is at the same time an advantageous composer, scrupulous arranger, open-minded producer, commited songwriter – or let’s just say a great contemporary musician of many talents.