'Marteinn Sindri' - 'Atlas' (album)
We wrote about Icelandic songwriter 'Marteinn Sindri' when he released his debut single back in 2017, after spotting him perform at Sofar Sounds - in a rare moment of being 'on the ball'. So we're delighted to re-start our writing with a few words about his beautiful debut album 'Atlas', which was released back in May, and which has just totally captured our hearts.
At the time we thought he had the ability to write pretty special music, but I never imagined that 2 years later he would release such a complete, natural and well balanced set of tracks. As you would probably guess he's had a bit of help from some fine Icelandic musicians to achieve this, including producer Daníel Böðvarsson and none other than the wonderful multi-instrumentalist ÓBÓ (Ólafur Björn Ólafsson), whom we wrote about many moons ago - although sadly I can't see any releases since his album 'Innhverfi' back in 2014. Anyway the result of 'Maretinn Sindri's writing is 'Atlas', and it is utterly captivating.
It all opens with title track 'Atlas', which has a lovely gentle melodic intent, with a chorus that just meanders away, and immediately I feel totally comfortable with his songwriting. I love the rhythms in 'Dice', with subtle brass contributions and it builds so slowly, adding instruments along the way, and lyrically it's so clever too. 'Summerwine' is upbeat and jaunty - ''I don't count the days ahead... I make the hours count instead'', and it's more simply arranged, which suits the indie folk style of the track. 'Odyssey' reminds me of one of those long 'Divine Comedy' tracks with rich, complex contributions from an array of instruments, and it's a real highlight, with a particularly effective ending.
'Spring Comes Late Sometimes' is a stripped back track, where all attention switches to Marteinn Sindri's quiet vocals and the gorgeous flowing guitar and melody - the additional instrumentation is used so sparingly, and he is able to paint such a clear picture through his words and music. 'Take Me Down' has a hymnal / gospel quality to it, stately and thoughtful - ''we are imperfect but not to blame'', with a brass backdrop which reminds me of 'Ljuva mekaniska jag' by the wonderful '1900' for reasons I can't quite explain, other than they're both beautifully written. The cello in 'Drops' has a lovely quality to it, I love the build up of pace and it's another beautifully written song, which I love the change of direction in the irresistibly catchy 'Crown of Love'. 'Deserts' is more contemplative and darker, ''I've never seen the deserts, but there are deserts in my mind', but again it's the rich texture of the supporting instruments which makes it effective. The album finishes with a 'Promotheus (Burnt)', a duet with yet another lovely melody, and a reminder that this is just a singer songwriter with a guitar writing tunes.
Aside from the lovely songwriting, gorgeous vocals and thoughtful lyrics, the element that really sets this album apart for me is the gorgeous instrumentation, with lovely contrubitions from cello, wind, backing vocals, and there are dozens of beautifully phrased musical moments that you will appreciate after multiple listens. The directions that the songs take too are often suprising and clever, phases which remind me of a classical composition, but all written in a way that is always accessible. Just turn this music up really loud, let it consume your house, because 'Atlas; is just really delightful from start to finish.
Nordic Music Review 9/10