Review: Asgeir: In The Silence

10/2/13
9.4ARTIST INFO

Ásgeir Trausti is now known simply as Ásgeir, which in Old Norse roughly means Spear of God. I'm easily amused, I guess, because if this young Icelandic man had not been blighted by injury in his early teens, he was very much on course to live up to that name as a javelin thrower. Sure, his musical path was already being paved from a young age, and perhaps fate (family and friends) gave him a nudge back in the direction of music.

If by chance you're not yet familiar with Ásgeir's backstory, it's worth noting the meteoric rise he's had in his homeland of Iceland. The debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn (Glory In Dead Silence) became the biggest selling album in Icelandic history, surpassing Mugison and household names such as Bjork & Sigur Rós. He went on to scoop four Icelandic awards for his now platinum album, which is still selling.

I first heard Dýrð í dauðaþögn last winter and immediately connected with his music. Of course I had no fucking idea what the lyrics meant, but I was hooked and pretty much shared his music with anyone that would listen, including our editor here at BitCandy. I'm guessing that's why he's handed me an early stream of the much anticipated English version In The Silence.

I LIFT MY MIND TO THE SKY/THEN I LET IT TAKE FLIGHT.

The first lyric in English from the delicate opening track, 'Higher,' sets a standard that continues throughout the album. Ásgeir's modern melodic folk music, fused with electronic touches, is backed by his father Einar Georg's poignant poetry; his father wrote seven of the lyrics on the album. His friend and collaborator Júlíus Róbertsson penned the title and uplifting second track, 'In The Silence,' along with two others.

"Summer Guest" was one track from the Icelandic version that I felt least connected with from the Icelandic version, unlike the others, and some purists I'm sure will disagree. I felt that understanding the lyrics in this mostly acoustic song would be the only way it could be truly enjoyed. It took me some time to get hold of the English lyrics, and now this week having the chance to finally hear it sung in English too? It's a thing of beauty as a poem on its own, and Ásgeir's finger picking on guitar in the style of Kristian Matsson is a joy.

My bird flies home from afar,
brings the joy of spring to me.
Over the ocean’s endless blue,
he never fails.
His path is clear and true.
Perched upon a branch of green,
he rests his legs from the long journey.
Warms my heart with wondrous song.
I listen close.
He tells of battles won.
From my heart, I thank you friend
for this precious melody –
for these sweet and pure tones,
sweet and pure tones.
When the autumn comes again,
I ask you from my heart, my friend,
that you’d have me sing your song.
Oh, summer guest,
I’ll miss you while you’re gone.
From my heart, I thank you friend
for this precious melody –
for these sweet and pure tones,
sweet and pure tones.
You’ve made a shelter for my soul.
If your language I could speak,
I would weave a song for you of my own.

"King and Cross" has been the first release outside Iceland, and this was actually the one track he wasn't sure would make the cut on the album because it sounds different from the rest, bringing his electronic layers throughout the track.

The exceptionally well written 'There Was Nothing' slots between the former and his latest release 'Torrent,' which again throws us straight back into that bigger, fuller sound carefully structured through the album.

'Going Home' is available in English already via the Toe Rag acoustic sessions, albeit the album version is a greater example of its quality and brilliant use of keyboard and theremin. 'Hide Your Head In The Snow' carries on the deep lyrics, and we're again greeted by the electronic drum marching onto the penultimate track 'In Harmony,' which was my personal favorite (Samhljómur) from the original album and most played track this year above any. It is still my pick of the album, and like the other tracks yet readily available in English, I don't intend to spoil what the lyrics are here for others, but it doesn't disappoint. The closing track 'On That Day' is fitting and naturally a poetic end to In The Silence.

Ásgeir's unique vocals and perfect compositions, coupled with the otherworldly lyrics written by his father and Júlíus Róbertsson, make In The Silence the "must hear" musical experience of the year. This is one to stand the test of time, and along with the original version, it'll be on my top shelf albums. Kudos must go to multilinguist John Grant for translating these lyrics without losing much if any of their meaning, worth the wait.

Ásgeir may still be raw and learning, but he's clearly backed by a good team to fulfill the promise that most musicians would kill for. He has made it clear he's likely to change musical styles and hopefully returning to the band My Lovely Lion. I just hope by that he doesn't mean back into hip-hop and Teletubbies with Blaz Roca.

Ásgeir - In The Silence is out via One Little Indian Records on 29th October.

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