Just a few words tonight posting you all in the direction of a Post Rock album that was released back in February. Stafrænn Hákon is the stage name of Icelandic musician Ólafur Josephsson, originally starting the project as a solo artist, but then building a 5 piece band around the name over 10 years ago. They’ve released a number of albums, and have even started to reissue remastered versions of some of the earliest releases.
Anyway new (well, newish) album 'Awake' is their latest release, a sprawling 10 tracks of purely instrumental music, which post rock enthusiasts will love, although if you're not a fan of the genre then I'm not claiming this is the release that will instantly convert you - it does take some getting into musically.
But I've really enjoyed it, because there's so much detail and precision in the songwriting and performances to appreciate. Opening tracks 'After the Fall' and 'The Item' are close to 13 minutes in length, inevitably building up from soft beginnings, with layers of instruments added, musical themes developed slowly, and inevitable swells of sounds.
As a helpful guide the band released a series of ‘digital notes’, which I’ve found a really enjoyable background in understanding the stories behind the tracks. Take the dark, brooding ‘Security Consultant / Ninja’, which opens by saying “everyone has heard that she held the title ‘Security Consultant / Ninja’, but no-one actually knew if she had taken a course or pursued an education in the area that led to that title or even if a course or education existed”. It’s all slightly leftfield and random, and I suspect the band really enjoyed constructing the ideas.
Similarly ‘X-Ray’ is an inspired dissection of the human mind when trying to organise life in boxes, whilst the excellent ‘Three Pins’ considers a woman who suddenly discovers she has three pins in her left shoulder. But my favourite track is probably ‘Vortex’, an expansive track with a real post rock feel that will really make me think next time I try to remove a splinter from my finger with a tweezer.
Anyway this is a really enjoyable listen musically, and I think the band have particularly excelled themselves with the track notes, which adds so much context to the instrumental sound . I missed their early releases at the time, so I look forward to listening to the album reissues, the next one being ‘Skvettir edik á ref’, which should be released in August, 20 years after the original.
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