Frank Kunert’s Wunderland

Frank Kunert is back with the followup to Topsy-Turvy World. His latest book is called Wunderland and is, again, published by Hatje Cantz, and it’s great!

For those that don’t know about Frank Kunert’s work – He makes miniature improbable dioramas. Each and every scene is still; arrested in a moment where the people that populate Kunert’s world have exited the stage for a brief moment. The photo (or more like a still from rolling film) of each scene gives more than enough life for the viewer to use their imagination and get sucked in completely. It’s inconceivable to consider each piece without imagining the following moments in your mind (or maybe the moments before). These are worlds you get lost in.

Frank Kunert shares his work from over the last few years and it’s refreshing to see that, although his style has remained the same, the images are so fresh. The initial humour is then interrupted – for the diligent viewer – and transformed to a more serious sense. There’s a earnest intent in every image. Sometimes the messages are obvious and sometimes they take a little more time to see. You can’t help but have conflicting emotional responses (smile with sadness) for images like the scene set out in Upstairs Toilet (below) where a disabled toilet is only accessible by monkey-bars. While it has a helpful wheelchair ramp at the bottom it still looks to be only accessible via the staircase on the side of the room.

We are also treated to a few process photos in which show the scale, detail and ultimately the dimensions of the models that are never seen in the finished piece; the photo. It would be great to see Kunert’s sketchbook though. I’d love to see if the initial details play out as intended. I wonder how the images are initially framed compared to the final photos. I’d love to see if/how he tweaks the camera angles etc to make the images so perfectly.

This helping of Kunert’s work comes in the same format as his last offering; 72 pages with 31 full size photos of his works (a few more than last time) in a hardcover edition. You can get a copy direct from Hatje Cantz or from all the usual places including AmazonUK

Fritz Kahn’s Anatomy of Ideas

A little over nine years ago, I stumbled across an image that changed the way I regarded medical information; an illustration that was created in 1928, Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) by, German born, Fritz Kahn. Although I had seen plenty of info information graphics in the past, this was the first I had seen one related to anatomy and physiology (I later learnt about Florence Nightingale’s polar area diagrams, although they are, more accurately, statistical diagrams). Dr Fritz Kahn’s (1888 – 1968) image plays out the workings of the head and trunk as an industrial machine, complete with pistons, pulleys, gears, radio stations, conveyer-belts, pipes and all kinds of other bits and pieces that make sense to the layman. By mixing these real-world objects with the intangible stuff that goes on in our body (intangible to the layman and the learner), Kahn was able to show us how we work. My memory must have failed me as I recall seeing this image as I was undertaking my own anatomy and physiology training, which was a few years prior to seeing the piece. I can only assume that when seeing it for the first time, the knowledge that I had learned finally found a way to gel between the two opposing worlds of the textbook and the body. I was thrilled. As a single piece, I think it’s the most important medical illustration that there is. Since then, the internet hasn’t been able to quench my thirst for Kahn’s illustrations and I’ve longed to see more…

That was until I found out that not only was there going to be a book published about him but it was going to be done so by Taschen! Having recently got back from a trip to Paris I was full of respect for Taschen after visiting their incredible store. I knew they were a special publisher (I already own some of their books) but didn’t quite realise the extent of their catalogue and the ethos surrounding their consumer and collectable titles. Fritz Kahn – Anatomy of Ideas is everything – and more – that I was expecting… very much more in fact. The first thing that struck me when I got to the end of the initial flick-through was photographic portrait of the man himself. In all these years of thinking about the few images of his that I knew about, I had never taken the time to imagined him as a person himself. His images have always been so enveloping that they’ve been all that was needed and was all there was room for in my head. When confronted by the illustrations my mind goes into study-overdrive as I journey into the image and as the images’ messages travel into my memory; it’s such an extraordinary way to learn. There was no space for the human aspect of the illustrations’ creation!

Uta von Debschitz and Thilo von Debschitz have curated Kahn’s work and displayed it in such a powerful way. They’ve stripped down the text and put the imagery in the forefront and there’s no shortage of quality imagery either. There must be about 300 full page images included and each and every one of them offers some unique view on the body and the natural world around us. He metaphorically dissects individual elements of the body’s working systems and they are not just images with simply visual metaphors. Some very abstract ideas are used to convey certain ideas. For instance, there are a couple of crackers about the heart and how it could lift and elevator to the fifth floor in an hour if harnessed. Or harnessed a different way, a four-heart engine could propel a car at 2.5mph that would travel the circumference of the world in a year! To even come up with the ideas, let alone to visualise them is a great achievement. This was one of the big surprises of the book for me. Another one has nothing to do with illustration at all…

As well as being a doctor (a gynaecologist) and an illustrator, he was also a writer. Now there’s writing and there’s writing. Fritz Kahn’s writing is as unique as his imagery and so poetic in places. I googled one of the few pieces of writing included in this book but there are no hits to share with you. Einstein Sonata (Quasi una Fantasia) is perhaps one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve ever read (I’m biassed, I know). This scientific journey of relativity takes another metaphorical twist that starts off with the life of a couple of mayflies and ends with a faster-than-light journey away from Earth. The Earth’s history is runs backwards in front of the pilot’s eyes. Over the course of a week, the pilot writes a diary of what he sees happening on the Earth. It’s moving, thought provoking and I can’t believe I’ve not seen this idea before (I’m sure it’s been done but I can’t imagine it’s been done anywhere as beautifully as this).

So, by now, you know how much I love this book and what it means to me to have a copy. I only have one small criticism (that I feel a little awkward even mentioning) but I do think it’s a shame that the non-english diagrammatic labelling in many of the images do not come with translations as they still – to this day – offer a great tool for the learning of anatomy and physiology. That said, the little bits of info that accompany each image makes up for this to some degree. Maybe I’m being too fussy! The next decision is where to keep the book – on the coffee table for all to see and enjoy, in the study with all my art books or filed in the anatomy and physiology section on the family bookshelves… Debschitz and Thilo von Debschitz and Taschen have done Fritz Kahn proud. The book weighs in at 392 pages in a massive 32 x 26 hardback edition that’s nearly 4cm thick! Get a copy direct from Taschen and from all the usual places including AmazonUK… you won’t regret it. There are so may things to learn about Kahn’s art and life within.

Mark Ryden’s The Gay 90’s

Mark Ryden has had a couple of books published recently but two different publishers. While one appeared to cover more ground chronologically, the other was based around an individual body of work and included a full version of an essay by an art writer that I have the utmost respect for; Amanda Erlanson. For these reasons – as well as having the most adorable cover – I chose the latter book to get hold of. Mark Ryden chose to use the era known as The Gay 90’s to form a body of work dating from 2010 onward. This psudo-idyllic decade following 1890 was not all it was made out to be years after it actually happened and Ryden has used the artistically poor taste of the time as the catalyst for this particular body of work. Here are my thoughts on this sumptuous book.

The Gay 90’s is published by Rizolli and the first thing of note – once you peel back the opaque front page with the book’s title – is the double page spread showing Mark Ryden, looking quite dapper, in his studio-space. Being fascinated by artistic process, I hunt down images of art-spaces but I have ever seen one like this before. Ryden works inside a giant cabinet of curios. It’s almost like he’s a miniature in there himself. Instead of a nest of tiny boxes, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf spans the full breadth of the large room. Inside are collections of esoteric books, busts, toys, dolls, anatomical models and other crazy looking sculptures. Countless paintings adorn the other walls and in front of one façade is the easel. One of my favourite pieces looks like it’s being worked on with a halo of reference paintings and photos. It’s obviously more than just a studio-space… it’s a place of inspiration in itself and it’s great to see an insight into how such an important artist works.

As any of you who already know, Ryden’s work art is instantly recognisable. His characters – many of whom are reoccurring (Jesus Christ & Abraham Lincoln) – are the perfect mix of cartoon and realism. In fact, I can’t think of an artist that can do this better than him. You know that these images are made of canvas, wood and paint and that the scenes are like something from a dream… false but at the same time faultless. This is sometimes given away by tiny shifts in scale and, at other times, the surreal focus of the images themselves. Even at their most surreal, they are always grounded in some kind of believability.

Not only does this title faithfully portray about 60 of Ryden’s unique works (as you would hope a book like this to do) it also allows the viewer to delve deeper into his technique with the aid of preparatory sketches. You can see how ideas are layered and decisions are in the process of being made. It’s easy to imagine that paintings as perfect as these just land on a canvas by Ryden’s hand so it’s nice to see the human aspect of it. I even noted a piece that must have been directly influenced by one of Jacques Pierre Maygrier’s pieces in there. It’s good to see that even geniuses don’t live in an artistic vacuum and are effected by those that came before them.

And then there’s that essay I mentioned earlier by Amanda Erlanson. Let’s keep it short and just say that it’s the best introduction to a book that I’ve ever read. She has a wonderful way with words and has managed to tell a story at the same time as a history lesson and some philosophy and mythology mixed in there too. Perfect! I shouldn’t neglect to mention Anthony Haden Guest’s into too; another fine piece of writing that really sets the tone for the book.

All in all, it’s a wonderful book for any art book collector or fan of Ryden’s work. The Gay 90’s weighs in at 128 beautifully surreal pages and can be purchased direct from Rizzoli and from all the usual places, including Amazon UK.

Vandals by Nils Muller

Deja vu time. When I wrote a review of Rudione’s Backflash, back in 2009, I commented whether there was room for another graffiti photo-book after Alex Fakso forged the way a couple of years previously, with his amazing Heavy Metal. I concluded that there was and that Rudione has filled that gap too. We fast-forward a few years and Publikat have just released a new title by another hugely respected graffiti photographer, Nils Muller; it’s called Vandals and I spent the first few seconds wondering again if there was any room for such a book…

As I said, Nils Muller is already a well respected photographer and has been about for a while and has already had a book of his work released back in 2009 called Bluetezeit. I remember at the time thinking how great the photos were in a press-release. Times have changed and the publics’ attitude to graffiti has done too… well, to some degree. Muller has reminded us that graffiti isn’t street-art, isn’t advertising, isn’t product placement, isn’t as accessible as the internet has made it. It’s still graffiti. It’s still vandalism… beautiful vandalism!

The practitioners of graffiti’s hardcore break and enter, masked and travelling light; only taking what the need to get the job done and get away fast. Muller takes us on another trip, which is different than that of the aforementioned titles. This journey takes us around the world, via subway, through six stops; Milan, New York, Bucharest, Seoul, Caracas and finally Paris. At each stop, Muller fills us in with some info about the city and the subway system. This aspect reminded me a little of and other book that came out in 2009 called Subway World, which concentrated solely on the subway systems around the world. In Vandals, this info doesn’t go into so much detail but does really give you a feel of the citys’ subway systems. The introductions are followed by Muller’s personal accounts from each city.

Between the regional chapters are collections of writer portraits. These aren’t necessarily associated with any place in particular as is detailed below each image. There’s a mix of daytime and night-time photos and the majority of them are track-side or thereabouts. Of these portraits, some are taken in the way that they hit the yards – masked and anonymous – while others are refreshingly open-faced. As well as the portraiture, there are some refreshing general shots from in and around the cities and the ins and outs of the subway systems themselves. The photography feels fresh and tell their own stores without words… which I guess a good photo should do.

To go back to the question I asked myself in the initial seconds of opening this book – is there room for another graffiti photography book? The answer has to be yes. Certainly enough room for this particular one. The photography’s great as are the stories and other info. Vandals weighs in at 192 pages, is a hardcover edition and can be purchased from all the usual places including direct from Publikat, from Stylefile and AmazonUK. More photos of the book and an interview, can be seen over at Ekosystem and photos from the the release party can be seen over at Arrested Motion.

Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail

Very occasionally, Mr Bingo will offer to send you a postcard. You’ll pay him £10 and on that postcard, he’ll write something or draw a picture for you. Nice hey? Well, don’t expect it to boost your confidence, self-esteem or help you with your PMA; it won’t. You see, he sends Hate Mail!

Michael Joseph (an imprint of Penguin Books) have recently published a small hardback book of 100 of these unique postcards in a book of the same name; Hate Mail. I’m sure that you’ve already got some preconceived ideas of the kind of messages that he sends. Maybe you’re near the mark but I suspect that you may be quite a way off. The fact that the book comes with a warning sticker on the front gives it away. It’s a warning that I thought about passing on here, dear reader…. but then I thought fuck it! So, hate mails… The nearest thing to simple “I hate you” kind of thing (apart from the one written in a heart!) comes with the addition of hating you since 1987 or “I fucking hate you”. Subtle emphasis, I think you’ll agree! These pieces of hate are among the most kind in the book too. The other postcards could have easily been accompanied with a one-way ticket to therapy! “People don’t stare at you because you’re attractive. People stare at you because you’re odd.” You get the idea.

And as if these insults aren’t personal enough, much of the time, Mr Bingo’s messages are completely personalised. The three people sitting on a bench are talking about Paul Martin; there’s no generic messages here. Each one has hand written and hand drawn, directed to an individual and addressed accordingly. In fact, every name and address is included in this book! And the actual postcards… many of them are so mundane that many discerning viewers will find them as offensive as the comments left on the other side! I mean, I know you lot are very design-savvy… what were they thinking back in the day when they designed these things! Dogs with balls, kittens in baskets, beaches, market towns, flowers… actually, nothing much has changed in postcard design, has it?!

I thought about dropping Mr Bingo a line and asking him to write me a postcard for inclusion in this review but then I noticed that, understandably, he doesn’t really like working for free. I’m sure Mr Bingo’s a nice guy. He ought to be considering he’s found an outlet for all his hatred and anger! Get a copy for yourself or your loved ones (or hated ones) direct from Penguin Books or from the usual places like Amazon UK. You could always take a leaf out of Mr Bing’s book and write one yourself and send it to someone special… I can think of a few people on my list!

Andrew Hem – Dreams Towards Reality

Andrew Hem paints. At the age of 12 he got into graffiti, formed a crew and started writing seriously in LA. He quickly realised that he had the opportunity to become a conventional artist so went on to study in this direction. His visual journey had really begun. His Cambodian heritage – he was born during his mother and father’s escape from Cambodia during the turmoil in the early 80s – paved the way for a unique and recognisable style and, last year, ZERO+ published Dreams Towards Reality; the first book that celebrates his artistic world.

Dreams Towards Reality follows Hem’s artistic journey from 2006 to 2011 in a series of chapters, which include his fine art, his mural work, sketchbooks and some of his photography. A journey that really started after he returned home from the first visit to Cambodia at the age of 27. With his “heart aflame”, he began to paint with new motivation. The use of bold colours for skin tones but subdued line-work (unusual for an ex-writer, it seems) make some some incredibly emotive imagery. There’s a ubiquitous sense of chaos being tamed by a calming spiritualism and his stories are never quite what they initially seem.

One of the aspects I love most about this book though is something that shines through all of ZERO+’s books that I’ve seen so far; it takes you further than the confines of the pages. I don’t know if it’s to do with the artists that choose to collaborate with ZERO+ or the publisher’s art direction but there’s something about the way that you feel like you’ve been on some kind of expedition. This is another one of those books. Once again, I’ve been places that I’ll never physically get to and seen things that I never dreamed of seeing. All of this just adds so much to the books… and Hem’s is richer for it.

Amanda Erlanson has the job of telling Hem’s story and, as you would expect from someone so well versed and knowledgable, she paints a great picture herself. In her six page essay, Envisioning the Invisible, she weaves a tale from Hem’s ancestry through growing up, through graffiti and into fine art. It’s an amazing read.

Design-wise, it’s a more subtle affair than former ZERO+ titles. Although Blaine Fontana’s at the helm again, his mark isn’t so obvious. I have to say that, for this book, it certainly works well. Hem’s artwork is able to breathe a little easier while the overall quality of the book (cloth lined and embossed hardcover with dust-cover) adds to the richness that we expect from a ZERO+ publication. It weighs in at 120 pages and is again a limited edition of only 1000 copies. Apart from seeing Hem’s work in the flesh, I can’t imagine a better way to take in the stories that he tells. A beautiful book.

Take a look at the special editions while you’ve over at the Dreams Towards Reality page. There’s a deluxe cloth clamshell edition of 30 as well as a bamboo boxed artist edition of 10. Sumptuous to say the least!

Cryptik: Eastern Philosophy – Book Review

So, I’ll level with you – I hadn’t heard of Cryptik before reading that Kirk Pedersen was planning on blessing his work with the Zero+ Publishing treatment. It was clear that if Kirk had decided to dedicate on of his 1000 book editions to an artist then we should all take notice. After all, he’s already given us some remarkable books from some remarkable artists and there was no reason to think that Cryptik’s book would be any less significant. Cryptik: Eastern Philosophy hit the streets a short while back and it is, indeed, another beautiful book.

My initial introduction to Cryptik’s work was when I finally directed myself to his website and saw some beautiful candles that he had decorated with some interesting looking script. My early thoughts on the style made me think of some of the many graffiti calligraphy masters; Chaz Bojorquez, Usugrow, Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman etc. Then I quickly realised that Cryptik’s type escaped – well, exaggerated – the usual cap hight and descender line in the same way that Arabic writing often does. I was intrigued to know where he came from I assumed that Cryptik hailed from the Middle East for this reason. Moving on, I soon saw that the majority of Cryptik’s art involved huge past-ups of Eastern religious figures, which didn’t neccesarily fit in with my preconceived ideas of Middle Eastern worship. I swiftly gave up trying to guess where he was from as soon as I read that he was based in LA!

My curiosity got the better of me again and I started to assume Cryptik was a Buddhist. Conjecture on my part, again! It turns out that this imagery – Buddha, Gandhi, Ganesha etc. is seated in a philosophical mindset rather than being based on orthodox religion. As Cryptic rightly points out, Buddhism is a very unreligious religion; if there could be such a thing. Buddhism’s iconography is always solid and instantly recognisable. Added to this, it’s attention grabbing and can only be viewed positively. Cryptik uses these images on the street and stops our mind wandering. We are forced to be mindful; there’s no ignoring these symbols or their cultural meaning, even though Crypik manages to mangle their orthodox intentions. The images themselves often look like giant antiquated woodcut prints with tapered cuts giving light, shade and depth; like the life that they force you to consider. Very potent.

The elements that I enjoy most though are the textual components, whether they are independent of any other image or as a background to the religious iconography. Unlike the writing of the other artists that I mentioned above, these letters offer no clue to their meanings. It’s not that they are “Cryptic” as such; they apear at first glance to be undecipherable. Maybe some kind of Rosetta Stone would come in handy. I don’t mean to say that they cannot be understood; just that I can’t read them. I can still draw conclusions in the same way as I can by looking at his other images but these are obviously subjective. Of things of beauty though, Cryptic’s lettering is surprising and exceptional. If I have anything to say negatively about this book, it’s that there isn’t quite enough of this part of Cryptik’s craft.

What there is though is a well rounded photographic adventure. The perfect mix of art-photography and fine-art-photography. This is no surprise coming from the Zero+. Above’s book was the same. in fact, this is very much a photography book. Great photos of paste-ups, huge art-pieces and street-photography. Cryptik: Eastern Philosophy weighs in at 84 pages in a hardback edition of only 1000. Like all of of the books that Zero+ put out, they don’t stay on the shelves for long; especially when they are as special as this. Check out more of his work on Cryptic’s Flickr.

Day One

I started a Twitter account a couple of years back. I didn’t do it for the same reasons most do though; I wanted somewhere that I could write a mini diary kind of thing; somewhere that I could write a few lines if I had anything particular to say about the day. I used it for a while – sporadically – but then forgot about it. I tried Tumblr as it had a bit more scope for writing longer texts but I ended up wanting something a bit more robust and private. While I was on holiday recently, I looked up journal apps online and the one that came up in every test was Day One. I’ve been using for a month now and a day doesn’t pass that I don’t put an entry into. I have it set up on my mac and my phone (£3 each) and they sync perfectly (with either DropBox or iCloud). I can add entries and photos on either device, I can search the entries on the iMac, view the photos that I’ve added by themselves or as part of the individual posts, star particular entries for ease of finding them at a later date and more. There’s a handy taskbar widget thing that I can enter a post directly, without opening the app and I’ve also set it up to remind me late in the evening, in case I forget. There are only two problems I can see… well three if you count that it’s only an Apple compatible only app. One is that there’s no option to export to a .pdf although this is in the works (you can export as .txt and .mk already though). The second is that it’s all saved in a proprietary file format. This leaves me a little worried about the future as it would be great to know that all the data could easily be exported in some kind of file that’s understood by other programs apart from Day One. Anyway, I just thought I should share the joy because it’s such a great app.

Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf

I’ve been taking photographs for a long while now but it’s only been over the course of the last few months that I feel that I’m beginning to understand the subtilise that make a photograph a real work of art rather than just a photograph. Recently, in order to try and learn more about the art of photography I made the decisions to focus on the image by turning from colour to black and white. A few months ago I picked up a copy of Black & White Photography magazine at the airport; something to read in the shade. This was mainly because of the cover photograph; a striking photo by a photographer I hadn’t heard of – Cathleen Naundorf. This was the start of a week long obsession with the eleven photos that were included in the magazine. Back home, a quick search led to a new book of her work over the last ten years; Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf, which is edited by Ira Stehmann and published by Prestel.

So, as you can see, Naundorf’s a fashion photographer but she’s one of a kind. Once you see these photographs you’ll instantly be able to recognise every other by her unique style. You could think this due to the fact that she photography the most prestigious clothing in the world. The book’s not called Haute Couture for no reason. It’s called it because it’s clothing by these eleven celebrated couture houses (the only ones that are truly Haute Couture) that benefit from being worn by Noundorf’s regular models – every one of them strikingly beautiful – and, ultimately, arrested through Naundorf’s lens. Learned from some legendary photographers that came before her, Naundorf’s rules seem simple at first; use natural light as much as possible and never crop after the shot. The later is pretty much taken care of by her choice of equipment. Where many people used Polaroids to take preparatory images to fine-tune an image before taking the final image with a film camera, Nournorf takes her images directly with a large-format camera and Polaroid film. The process renders every peeled back image unique. This image is scanned and a limited run of silver gelatine prints. There are so many striking elements to each image, it’s dizzying to look at so many at a time. Each one demands its own attention.

The black and whites are simply stunning. Perfect tonality leaves an enthusiastic photographer (I’m writing about me, if you hadn’t realised!) with polar-opinions on how to move forward; do we (I) just give up, knowing that it’s so unlikely that we’ll ever master light like it or should we (I) keep moving forward and learning as much as possible from Naundorf, and the legends that came before her. I mean, when you see these B&Ws you’ll see what I mean. If they are indeed created in natural light then Naundorf’s some how managed to control nature itself! And the colour images… what can I say about these? It’s complicated… I wasn’t prepared for colour work when I got this book. As I mentioned earlier, I had been introduced to her work in a B&W magazine. The colour polaroids that Naundorf has captured are unique also. These pieces – for they are pieces of art, rather than simply photographs – are notable for their physical imperfection. The framing, as usual, is perfect at every hit. It’s the inconsistency from the film that adds so much to the images here. Sticky polaroid liquid has seeped out, run, pulled layers from the polaroid’s layers and ultimately made a truly unique piece… every time. Some of these imperfects are subtle but some are so profound that a purest may not like the effect. Me, I love it. The textures and colours – that look almost painted at times – that they create are almost tangible. Magically tangible!

Ultimately, this book delivers beauty on so many levels; wonderful photographs; incredible locations; stunning clothing; alluring models; perfect blacks and whites; captivating colours and a fittingly elegant binding in this book. One small downside for me though – one of my bugbears is beautiful images being shared between two pages. I understand the limitations of the book making process but I wish that landscape images are presented smaller, on a single page rather than being marred by a book’s binding in the middle. Luckily, by far the majority of Naundorf’s images are shot in portrait and there are only a few that are landscape. Of them, they are in such a format that the centre of the images don’t end up on the middle of a spread so it’s not as bad as I could be.

Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf weighs in at 184 pages and bond in a lavish cloth-bound hardcover 24cm x 32cm edition. It’s available direct from Prestel as well as all the usual places including Amazon UK.

Living Room Songs by Olafur Arnalds

After hearing the amazing Nils Frahm a while back (his album, Felt, reviewed here), I was eager to discover more music that made me feel the same way. It didn’t take long. A quick look and listen through some of the other artists on the same label, Erased Tapes, left me mesmerised with the sweet tones of Olafur Arnalds. The music that had a particular impact wars from his album, Living Room Songs. While playing at home – in his living rooming in Iceland, no less – Olafur Arnalds found himself with a new tune and no way to record his idea. He decided to open up his MacBook and take an audio snapshot via the iSight camera in Photo Booth and the built in microphone. Lucky he did because it gave hime the idea for this very project. His idea was to record an album that would comprise of a week’s worth of music; one composition per day for a week and all recorded in this very room.

What I immediately noticed was that the piano sound was similar to Nils Frahms’ in that it was obviously not a concert-type recording. A compact upright piano in a living room doesn’t offer the same sonic properties of a grand in a concert hall and that’s the major element that I love about the sound on this recording. It’s makes for an intimate recording that you can really imagine being in your own living room; you feel connected in some way. In fact, it’s easier to feel connected than with most other types of music, I’ve noticed. Arnalds isn’t quite as soft on the keys as Frahms is (although he comes close at the start of Tomorrow’s Song and also Lag fyrir Ömmu) but it’s still super-mellow. Arnalds has called on friends and family to play with him and they play beautifully together. It’s not all classical instrumentation either; beats and synths appear at times but the major part of the tunes are also ways Arnalds and his compact piano.

The session was videoed and released online for free, in both video and audio formats. That was back in 2011 and while the video’s are still up, the MP3s are no longer available in such a way. However, all of the compositions are still available for free in video form, showing the original recording sessions. If you, like me, aren’t satisfied with the audio-quality on the average YouTube clip you can buy the audio formats in various versions from mp3 through CD and DVD and 10″ vinyl too. It’s not the longest album in the world but it is superb. You can get Living Room Songs direct from Erased Tapes or form the usual places including Amazon UK.