Ölvis: The Blue Sound

About five years ago, Björn Olsson issued a dreamy and vaguely psychedelic ambient folk album whose rather unwieldy title Instrumental Music… to submerge in… or disappear through accurately captures the experience one has listening to it. Though the two releases are markedly different in many respects (Orlygur Thor Orlygsson's second Ölvis outing, for instance, includes Icelandic singing on six of the eleven tracks), I was reminded of Olsson's album while listening to the similarly hypnotic The Blue Sound. Not only does the opening song's title (“Acid Trip Festival”) resurrect the earlier album's hazy feel, so too does its dense orchestral languor with the song's appeal deepened further by the soft flutter of a saxophone and Ölvis's entranced singing.

Orlygur's joined by distinguished guests like Sigur Rós drummer Orri Dyrason and bassist Georg Holm (apparently their first outing as guest musicians on a record) plus Amina's violinist Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir, but don't think the album's a Sigur Rós knock-off. While they and other musicians make significant contributions to The Blue Sound, it remains very much Orlygur's vision. Alluring moments abound, such as the lulling vocal hook in “Moving to Mars,” the slow-motion electric guitar melodies that drift across the willowy surfaces of “Pacific Island” and “Whispering Glades,” the gossamer weave of strings, glockenspiels, acoustic guitars, and Ölvis's soft baritone in “Time Capsule,” and the beauteous shimmer of “Warfare and Welfare.” Though a creeping sameness in vaporous sound and curdling tempo does set in as the album nears its end, it little detracts from the strong impression made by this becalming album.

July 2005