“Arstidir – icelandic indie folk” said the poster at the door of the Lutherhaus in Osnabrück. If I hadn’t heard of them already, I really would not have known what to expect. I didn’t have much of an idea as it was, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing...
After I saw the documentary "Arstidir - you just have to know of me" about them last year, I knew I just had to know (more) of them. Finally I got my chance. I was in for a real treat: An evening of beautiful music that left me with a huge smile on my face. 6 men, 6 voices in harmony, 3 guitars,a violin, a cello and a grand piano created a beautiful sound that touched my heart and opened my mind. The name Arstidir means “seasons”, and that’s exactly what their music sounds like. It flows like the wind through the trees on grey fall day, warms you like the bright summer sun, covers you gently like winter’s snow or calls out to you like birds in the spring.
Hardly anyone in the audience knew Arstidir beforehand, yet by the end of the evening they were clapping and cheering and stomping their feet so hard the floor was shaking – literally. It was the amazing end to an evening of magical music. The guys seemed quite astounded by our reaction. Yet I have no doubt they must get the same everywhere they go.
For two hours they sang to us in Icelandic as well as in English. Anyone in the audience who allowed themselves to be carried by the music was taken away to a different place – one where beauty exists and magic is all around. I closed my eyes a few times to truly feel what I was hearing, but even with my eyes open I saw a peaceful landscape and was yearning to go there. Most of the songs have an underlying sense of melancholia, of longing. It transcends the music and delivers a message that goes beyond the sound. This is music you can feel, see, taste and smell, not just hear. Since I don’t speak Icelandic I had to rely on my other senses to understand and it worked – sometimes you don’t need your brain to get things.
The venue suited the music very well. The concert hall was set up with tables and chairs where everyone sat quietly during the concert. The acoustics were amazing, every instrument and every voice could be heard clearly. The audience was very attentive – there was no chattering or other noise to be heard. Only between songs the applause showed just how much they enjoyed the music.
I loved the English songs for the beautiful lyrics and the Icelandic songs for the images they created in my mind’s eye. All the songs were powerful in their own way, some were louder and faster, while others were very quiet. At time only one of the guys was singing, at times all six of them did, mostly two or three of them. The instrumentation created a lovely backdrop for the singing, but the a cappella songs were just as beautiful.
A few songs Arstidir played for us were traditional Icelandic songs, but most were their own. Sometimes they mentioned what they were about, but some were untranslatable. It didn’t matter what the words were, the music spoke to everyone in the room. When the last note rang out, I felt at peace with the world and smiling. Thank you, Arstidir, hope to see you again soon.