Home is not a place
Places are not home
Home is people
I spin consistent circles ‘round the centre
Snorri Hallgrímsson is a classically trained composer and multi-instrumentalist from Reykjavík, Iceland. Involved in the production of The Chopin Project, the Broadchurch OST and Island Songs, he is also a long-time collaborator of fellow citizen Ólafur Arnalds. Having mostly scored for cinema and documentaries to date, Snorri Hallgrímsson released Orbit, his first full-length début, on 15 June 2018 last for Montreal-based label Moderna Records.
Citing Ryuichi Sakamoto and John Tavener as a major influences, the compositions of Snorri Hallgrímsson combine minimalist piano, quasi-religious vocal and choral music with electronic beats and orchestral arrangements. Originally trained on the classical guitar, Snorri Hallgrímsson also grew up surrounded by a very strong Icelandic choral tradition. Having sung in many choirs, his early compositional work centred on original choral work which the musician subsequently manipulated electronically. Even the string arrangements on the album emulate the subtle and slow dynamics of choral music.
The eight compositions on Orbit are comprised of six downtempo songs written in minor keys and two instrumentals. At the same time, the eerie instrumental track “Týnd er tunga þín” features the Johannebergs Vokalensemble choir.
Having lived in Spain and Mexico for a time, the musician wrote new music upon his return to the home soil in August 2016. The songs document the difficult readjustment from warm climates and laidback living to the dark Nordic winter of Iceland where spring is also “unbearable and never-ending” (“Still Life”). The songs also question the traditionally accepted notion of “Home” whereby a person’s natural centre of gravity might not necessarily equate to a particular home place but rather be distributed more loosely among friendships acquired while travelling. Hence the idea of “orbiting” instead of “homing”.
The flawless balance achieved between the singer’s pitch perfect and ethereal voice, the lavish strings performed by the 25 piece Budapest Art Orchestra and the sparse piano on “I Know You’ll Follow” or “Be Still, My Tongue” for instance lend the entire album a stunning and serene quality.
Mixed by Addi 800 and mastered by Ian Hawgood, Orbit is a glorious début.
It is perhaps not surprising that many of the songs on Orbit were picked out and streamed by several ambient channels on YouTube. The compositions also spurred other musicians to rework the pieces. Released on 30 November 2018 last also on Moderna Records, Orbit Reworked features four new interpretations from Snorri Hallgrímsson’s original début.
Texas-based Matt Kid’s ambient project Slow Meadow, British cellist and composer Peter Gregson (with whom Hallgrímsson shares a J.S. Bach connection), Berlin-based songwriter and producer Tom Adams and Australian modern classical composer Luke Howard all contribute to new reworks or remixes. It is interesting to note that all the above musicians have also been involved in film scoring at some stage and have picked up on Orbit’s genuine cinematic qualities.