| The Angela Test, their second album, sounds like a quantum leap too. The majestic arrangements, elemental beauty and soaring melodies that so impressed on their debut are still there. But this time there’s a new confidence, a spirit of adventure and an audacity that suggests a group that know its time has come. A major line up change has seen the trio of childhood friends - Arnar Gudjonsson, Hallur Hallsson and Arnar Olafsson - joined by a new drummer Noi Steinn Einarsson, and the return of keyboard player Andri Asgrimsson – both bringing fresh new musical influences to Leaves sound. |
Recorded at the band’s own studio in Reykjavik, The Angela Test saw Leaves take a far more democratic approach to their song writing than on previous recordings. With each band member playing a part in the song writing process the new album developed depths and nuances only hinted at on their debut. And whilst the band were happy to embrace flattering comparisons to Radiohead, Coldplay and Elbow, it’s clear they’ve drawn on a wider musical palette on The Angela Test. Andri’s talents as a lyricist lend a dreamy quality to the new songs whilst Noi’s love of the Aphex Twin and modern electronica proves a remarkably good fit alongside more obvious Leaves influences such as The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd, all of which are prevalent here.
Their homeland too the band acknowledge, has also had an impact on their music. A special magical quality - “Magic and mysticism are very strong elements in Icelandic culture” - and the sheer scope of the band’s material would certainly substantiate this.
As the songs on The Angela Test neared completion Leaves were joined by producer Marius de Vries (Massive Attack/Madonna/Bjork) who helped finalise the songs arrangements and put the finishing touches to the album. As Arnar G explains, “He gave us the confidence that we’d got it right because on a lot of tracks he just said, “That’s great. Don’t change it.”
Shakma, a song which Arnar G says “was like writing a symphony” and at seven minutes long kick starts the album, is testament to the sonic power contained within each of The Angela Test’s ten songs. The first single to be taken from the album, The Spell, has a Germanic influence courtesy of Kraftwerk – a trip to see the group helped Leaves to finish the track -whilst Good Enough, another potential single, is, Leaves say, their ‘rock’n’roll song”, a departure from their more usual brooding epics. Title track Angela Test – “our idea of what a Russian Beach Boys might sound like” – features the album’s most intriguing and allegorical lyrics and sees the band embrace their mystical homeland. Rounding off the album is Should Have Seen It All, a song which uses the novel sample of builders dynamiting an underground car park, a sound so huge, “it was like God playing the drums”.
Where the inspiration for their transcendent soundscapes comes from, even Leaves themselves aren’t sure. “I don’t necessarily feel we write the songs at all,” Arnar G admits. “It’s like you have an antenna to this place where music comes from. You have to tune in and some people have better connections than others”. It’s an intriguing account and one that makes Leaves’ music all the more captivating. Leaves will be previewing tracks from The Angela Test on UK dates with both Supergrass and Thirteen Senses throughout May. The Spell will be released in advance of the album on May 30 th