Following up quickly on his debut Eulogy For Evolution, Ólafur Arnalds is already out with this twenty-minute Variations Of Static EP. It takes the themes introduced on his first release and tweaks them just slightly, offering up another set of somnambulistic pieces that incorporate strings, electronics, and for the first time; vocals.
Of course, the tweak on the latter element is that Arnalds has gone the same path as fellow countryman Jóhann Jóhannsson (on both his Englaborn and IBM 1401 - A User's Manual releases) and let a computer do the talking. In and of itself, it's not really an issue, but combined with the music itself, it makes the short release feel more derivative than it should. After opening with some soft beat programming and a small crescendo on "Fok," the short release actually plays out in an even more understated way than his debut. "Vid vorum smá..." opens with a minute-long passage of aforementioned voice before it's chopped apart and turned into an almost hissing swarm. A melancholy piano part enters the mix eventually and overtakes it, but it plays out more like a sketch than anything.
The remainder of the EP unwinds with various string-quartet compositions augmented with electronics, digital processing, and computer vocals. Of the three, "Himininn er ad hrynja, en stjörnurnar fara pér vel" is the most successful, dipping into much deeper wells with rich swells of cello and a repeating piano line as a sonar blip continues through a portion of the piece. In the end, it's hard to know what to make of this short release. Musically it has only a few moments that surpass the debut, while the addition of the computerized voice simply lacks the originality it might have once had (especially considering that it's exactly the same setting that Jóhannsson used). Hopefully he'll find his own voice a bit more on his next release.