What does Ásgeir sound like?
Smooth Icelandic folk-pop with sizzling electronica – this time given an acoustic lo-fi treatment,
The review of Ásgeir – Time On My Hands (Lo-Fi Version)
I didn’t get the chance to review Ásgeir’s 2022 album ‘Time On My Hands’ as it was released slap bang in the middle of my father’s cancer treatment, but the album was one of my favourite releases of the year. It’s smooth electric pianos, mellow but complex synth work and acoustic roots allowed Ásgeir’s evocative voice to soothe you to sleep. The album felt like a love letter to giving yourself space to breathe and it arrived at a time for me to truly appreciate the message. Revisiting the entire album, Ásgeir has removed the overt synth work to create a beautiful ‘lo-fi’ version of the album. It’s like a plugged acoustic rendition of the album but with bells and whistles in its own way.
Whilst I’ll say the overt synth work has been removed, Ásgeir has left a lot of the lo-fi reverb tropes in for this album rework. Most songs now have the traditional lo-fi electric piano adding in a warm glow and when paired with the acoustic guitar and Ásgeir’s voice, it is like molten syrup coating your ears to protect them. The reverb and tape distortion effects on the electric piano are hidden in plain sight. Some tracks like ‘Snowblind’ are drenched in them, turning the road trip anthem into a taut and tenser piece as it is devoid of percussion. ‘Giantess’ is a sumptuous Gaussian blur of electric piano, rubbery keyboards and kick drum. Blues meets lo-fi beats to chill to in the best way possible. Elsewhere, such as the title track, it is more subtle as if we’re listening to a vintage cassette recording of Ásgeir. Warm, cosy, mug of cocoa vibes carry the album and it is down to the production as much as the excellent songs themselves.
Ásgeir borrows from his Icelandic contemporary classical composers across the album for inspiration too. ‘Vibrating Walls’ is transcribed into a nest of acoustic guitars delicately laying out a beautiful song. In the background, the tiniest embellishments of room piano trickle and flick around the edges. Olafur Arnalds would be proud. ‘Borderland’ brings in a string arrangement and some acoustic percussion to transform the track into a lo-fi chamber pop track. Most of the songs are beatless though and are built upon carefully constructed acoustic guitar melodies. ‘Golden Hour’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Like I Am’ are all built this way. Adding in gentle washes of synths, tape distortion and subtle effects, the whole back half of the album sounds more vintage than the first half. This could be because it is more ballad-heavy, but the sunset acoustic production hits the sentimental spot dead centre. ‘Waiting Room’ is the token track that puts synths first, creating a summery ambience for Ásgeir to lilt lyrically over. The closing track ‘Limitless’ removes all the effects as if the album wants to close with clarity.
If you hadn’t heard ‘Time On My Hands’ beforehand, I would recommend hearing the original album first. I definitely have a preference for the original but that’s mainly due to familiarity and sentimental value. Ásgeir has deftly reworked his album into a nightlight acoustic gem. Fans of lo-fi beat music may find this version more in line with their tastes but what I love most is that this isn’t strictly a lo-fi version of the album. I’d almost call it the Subtle Edition of the album because every track has been calmed, soothed and caressed into a new form. It is beautifully sentimental and emotionally charged from start to finish. Ásgeir continues to show why he is at the forefront of Icelandic indie folk. This album is exceptional.
Recommended track: Borderland (Lo-Fi Version)
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