Sólstafir - _Ótta_
(Season of Mist, 2014)
by: Julia Semprich (9 out of 10)
Iceland is a fantastic place (not only for geologists) where the extremes exist next to each other: ice and fire, light and darkness, creation and destruction, life and death. Whenever listening to Sólstafir, I instantly have pictures of Iceland in mind: the endless lava fields, the black desert Sprengisandur, the colorful mountains of Landmannalaugar, the vast glaciers and the impressive waterfalls. Sólstafir manage to represent their country's moody nature through a mixture ranging from melancholy and despair to aggression, but also atmospheric, meditative passages.

Compared to their previous releases, _Ótta_ concentrates more on the contemplative and melancholic side of the band. Piano passages at times supported by strings play a fundamental part on several songs (especially "Lágnætti" and "Miðaftann") creating a dreamy but slightly doleful mood and forming a nice contrast to the mostly distorted guitars. More than ever, Sólstafir seem to follow a minimalist philosophy, keeping the amount of instruments and their parts to a minimum. It is amazing how much atmosphere they can create with this approach.

Eight songs are presented on _Ótta_, each named after an Icelandic system called "Eykt" dividing the day into lengths of time equal to one-eighth. As before, Aðalbjörn Tryggvason's prominent voice guides us through the album, creating an additional layer of melancholy while restraining the more aggressive shouting he has been using on the previous albums. _Ótta_ starts in the middle of the night ("Lágnætti") and engulfs the listener in atmospheric piano sounds before picking up some momentum. The title song itself is a constant variation of crescendos and decescendos, of climax and anticlimax, starting with a spacey intro and spiked with banjo solos. On "Miðdegi", Sólstafir pick up a bit of speed with slightly more aggressive vocals and less calmer passages. The spirit is carried over to "Nón", but not without a slower interlude before we're engulfed in the calmer, dreamy piano and string passages of "Miðaftann". Before sending the listener into the night again, Sólstafir end with an eleven minute piece fully in the atmospheric and melancholic spirit of the rest of the album.

Similar to the inexorable flow of time, the songs on _Ótta_ merge into each other, forming an entity, transporting your mind into this mysterious world of ice and fire (if you're not one of the lucky ones who already live there). Once again, Sólstafir have managed to create a unique album, which seems to have evolved naturally out of their previous work but reaches far beyond.

Contact: http://www.solstafir.net/

(article published 2/5/2015)


ALBUMS
1/13/2010 K Sarampalis 10 Sólstafir - Köld
4/11/2003 Q Kalis 8 Sólstafir - Black Death
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