A unique talent, Úlfur (Luxembourg-born, Iceland-raised, NYC-residing Úlfur Hansson) is known as much for his genre-defying experiments with homemade instruments and electronics as he is for his work with prominent Icelandic trailblazers Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) and Ólöf Arnalds, and Sweden’s Anna Von Hauswolff. As a composer - a graduate of Mills College, California - Úlfur in 2013 received the prestigious Young Composer of the Year award from the International Rostrum of Composers, and has had works commissioned by The Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet and l’Orchestre de Radio France.
Arborescence, his brave and immersive newest LP, navigates a trail between these many worlds. Its pieces are longform and dreamily (un-)structured, made up of soundscapes, electro-acoustic processing, vocals, synthesizers, electronic production, all framed by intricate, cinematic string arrangements (performed by label-mate and múm co-founder Gyda Valtysdottir) and cataclysmic explosions of noise (provided in part by the transcendent and superlative drumming of black metal hero Greg Fox). The record alternately traverses moments of stillness and vulnerability and moments of violence, covering all the ground between as it travels.
“The title is derived from that type of movement,” Úlfur writes. “Arborescence - the phenomenon of branching out, following the path of least resistance, growing from a seed, or a bolt of lightning as it rips through the sky, connecting different outcomes, possibilities to a single point of origin.”
Arborescence was produced by Randall Dunn (SUNN O))), Earth, Marissa Nadler, etc.), and also features the wonderful musicianship of Skúli Sverrisson (Blonde Redhead, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Laurie Anderson, Ólöf Arnalds) and Zeena Parkins (Björk, Jim O’Rourke, Pauline Oliveros, Fred Frith, John Zorn).
Top 25 Best Icelandic Albums of the year list
"Whenever Arborescence sees its live debut, Úlfur should receive a magnanimous standing ovation [...] there are few examples that reach this caliber of innovation, fearlessness and sheer compositional quality. Though early in his career, Úlfur already has little left to prove [...] it’ll be a true joy to see where Úlfur’s brilliance takes him from here."
Heavy Blog is Heavy
"Arborescence is the work of a major talent"
"...tantalizing[...] like the sound of wind whisking through fine-tuned machinery, brisk and gorgeously dense without making a big show of it."
"...grand, cinematic sounds..."
“Gorgeous soundscapes that verge into the near-mystical...Extremely immersive...Sacred”
“All string-y dread and drone”
Pitchfork: Featured Track
“Organic, dark elements [lurk] amongst the play of tone.”
"...a ghostly wail, ebbing and flowing to eerie effect."
"...a collection of awe-inspired, nature-loving grandiose compositions that called for mental investment in their aural wonderland. "