It has been three years since In the Silence came out, the debut full-length release for Icelandic artist Ásgeir, and there has been a shift in the shape of music since then, something that is reflected in the evolution of his own sounds, as well as those of his peers. This is no more apparent than with new single Unbound. A rhythmic jumble of sequenced samples sprawl into existence, before an engrossing nearly-but-not-quite four minutes take hold. Never straying too far outside of the singer’s comfort zone of calmed melodies, Unbound is an introduction to the next development in the musical journey of Ásgeir. It is an auditory handshake, comprised of diced and hashed together samples which allude to where the young Icelandic native’s style is headed next.
Understandably in 2014 there were lines being drawn between Ásgeir and Bon Iver. It is a pretty lazy comparison, especially when you contrast the music featured on the two artists’ respective first albums, but similar comparisons could now rise again. Justin Vernon’s ethereal 22, A Million was released last year, an LP which showed that the shift in focus from acoustic to electronic can be justified commercially and artistically. Whilst it is too much to credit that release with any direct influence on Ásgeir’s development, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to argue that it laid the way for such an evolution.
Having originally been released to the public on the 24th of January, Unbound has had some time to permeate and the greatest endorsement of the coming change we can expect for Ásgeir’s next record is the response Unbound has received. How this song could be viewed as anything other than a good step in a welcome direction escapes me. It is a necessary – and, admittedly, at times painful – experience to witness the development of an artist, from the fan’s perspective. Should we always hope and expect that which we knew came first? Well, for some that is an unbeatable standard, but that should not form the bar against which all future releases are to be judged.
Unbound is a haunting effort that entices you in, its scrambled falsetto vocals providing a melodic relief to the sombre undercurrent provided by the instrumental. Is it different to what’s gone before? Undeniably, but then that is part of the appeal.
Words by Sion Ford