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Olafur Arnalds’ OPIA at the Southbank Centre

20 November, 2019 — By Tessa van Rens

‘A weird, special night’. Mike Milosh, the singer and founder of band Rhye hit the nail on the head when he described OPIA. Olufar Arnalds, the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer curated a night full of performers who tell a genre-bending story of classical instruments, electronic beats and loops and dreamy voices.

Despite filling all concert halls and even lobbies in the Southbank Centre, the atmosphere was intimate. The artists, ranging from Poppy Ackoyd and Hania Rani to Högni & Ensemble gave the audience a peak into the creative community they inhabit, and their personal creative processes. Rhye casually wandered around the stage, improvising music based on audience suggestions, his unique voice captivating the audience with even the most mundane sentences. Perhaps I’m biased, but his song based on my suggestion, ‘octopus’, showcased his raw talent. The experimental duo Grandbrothers explained how they use all parts of the piano, bending over into the grand instrument, creating different noises which they mix live on stage. The result was a beautiful mix of loud, subtle and orchestral sound.

The unpolished nature of some of the performances was contrasted with Arnalds’ own performance, a meticulous composition and triumph of his endless creativity and exciting new technologies. He controlled three pianos by playing only one, and was supported by a talented string quartet. The Southbank Centre’s superb lighting created a truly spell-binding performance.

The night ended with a rare live set by DJ duo Kiasmos. A slimmed down audience danced deep into the night, intoxicated by 7 hours of musical innovation and delight.


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