The title of Eydís Evensen’s debut album means “snowstorm”—a word that conjures so much for the pianist and composer, who grew up in the small town of Blönduós in northern Iceland. “It’s very beautiful there during the summer, when you have so many hours of sunlight,” Evensen tells Apple Music. “And then you have this other spectrum of incredible isolation in the winter. I remember sometimes getting snowed in for a day or two. The only thing you’d do is put on candles and play board games. There are little sparks of joy when you feel the wind increasing, but the storm also brings with it all these heavy emotions, darkness, and melancholia.” On Bylur, most of which was recorded in Reykjavík in July 2020, Evensen explores that roller-coaster of emotions against beautifully scored, soulful music. “Midnight Moon,” featuring stunning vocals from Icelandic singer GDRN, explores the links between the beauty and power of the Icelandic landscape and the overwhelming feelings of being in love, while “The Northern Sky” is a homage to Iceland’s night sky, written while the composer was thousands of miles away in New York. “I missed the stars and mountains in New York,” says Evensen. “Even the clouds felt different.” Iceland’s long, dark winters gave her plenty of time to play the piano. “My parents are big music lovers and I started taking lessons when I was six, and composed my first piece when I was seven,” says Evensen. “By the age of 12 or 13, I’d composed maybe seven or eight pieces.” You’ll find two of them—“Deep Under” and “Vetur Genginn í Garð”—here, as well as an exploration of what came next for the pianist. At 19, Evensen left Iceland for London (and then New York) as she pursued a career in modeling and the chance to travel the world. Eventually, she needed a change and, by 2020, she returned to Reykjavík. Bylur is, then, laced with a sense of homecoming as Evensen charts her emotional journey back to the dark, wild, and comforting storms of her childhood. “The idea of returning home inspired my music when I was abroad,” she adds. “I always felt all these emotions, like a snowstorm, that would take me back to Iceland.” Read on as Evensen takes us through her engaging debut, one track at a time. Deep Under “I composed the first part of ‘Deep Under’ when I was 12, and finished the latter half of it in New York a few years ago. The initial concept of the first part was heaviness and dark emotions. I’d just moved from Blönduós to Reykjavík, so I was feeling a bit challenged by starting a completely new life. I felt a bit confused, and that’s the initial feeling of that piece. But then it takes you to a flowy state, like ocean waves. It’s a resolution to the emotions I was feeling when I started composing it 15 years ago.” Dagdraumur “‘Dagdraumur’ translates as ‘Daydream.’ The initial idea came after a dear family friend passed away. She was a huge inspiration for me musically, and it was a challenging moment for the family. I didn’t really know how to have this conversation about this family member with everybody, and I remember sitting down amongst all this confusion, with all these emotions. ‘Dagdraumur’ is initially in an irregular 7/8 rhythm, because the death threw me off a lot. But then, later, the track levels off and there’s an acceptance, and a respect for what the person meant to us.” The Northern Sky “This track is about the vast concept of the northern sky and about just how much incredible beauty there was growing up in the north of Iceland. I remember being a kid, and it would be dark, and I would just sit outside in the snow and observe the stars for hours. So this track is this feeling of the magic that surrounded my home and my hometown.” Wandering I “‘Wandering I’ relates to the emotions I felt as I traveled in my work as a model during the last seven years. I was living out of a suitcase, sometimes traveling every two days or every week to a different city and shooting in different locations. This piece is about this continuous journey that I’ve been on, just wandering around the world.” Vetur Genginn í Garð “The title of this song translates as ‘Winter Has Arrived.’ I love the winter; it’s definitely my favorite season. This piece emerged from something I composed when I was seven. I was going through a very challenging time in my life, which was why I started to compose—to get all these emotions out that I couldn’t put into words. It starts in D minor, and is very held back and intimate, but then it shifts into a major key, like a resolution, a reassurance that it’s OK to feel how I did. It made me feel that it was OK for me to go through that life event, because it brought me the beauty of being able to compose.” Fyrir Mikael “This means ‘For Michael.’ Mikael is my little nephew. He’s eight years old and has been diagnosed with Louis-Bar Syndrome. We found out that he doesn’t have many years left. It’s scored for piano and string quartet. I wanted to capture his life essence, as he’s the happiest kid I know. The piece starts in this upbeat way, full of life, always smiling. It then takes you into a minor key, demonstrating how hard it was for us to find out about his illness, how life is unfair in many ways. It then moves back into the major, with a message that we have to make the most out of the time with our loved ones.” Wandering II “‘Wandering II’ is the second chapter of wandering about the world. The route I took had to be taken by myself and the piano. That was what kept me grounded—being able to compose and write.” Circulation “‘Circulation’ is the only piece on the album without a piano and is scored for string septet. When I composed it, I was out and about in New York City, feeling a bit unsettled because the energy there is so tense. So I just went back home, and I couldn’t get this specific rhythm out of my head. It came out very naturally, this circulation of emotions without any feeling of stability. Again, the piece moves into the major as well, which brings a brief positive element to the chaos.” Innsti Kjarni og Tilbrigði “The best way to translate ‘Innsti Kjarni og Tilbrigði’ is ‘The Innermost Core.’ It represents my innermost feelings. Firstly, the initial parts of being in love and embracing all of life’s beauty. Later, the piece moves into the minor, reflecting how daily life can affect us negatively. It’s all of these positive and negative emotions that we carry within.” Næturdögg “I composed this piece when I was living in Cape Town, around six years ago. I was just feeling a bit down. I had a realization that I needed to change some aspects of my life.” Midnight Moon [with GDRN and Hrafnhildur Marta Guðmundsdóttir] “I’m so fortunate that I was able to work with [Icelandic vocalist] GDRN. She’s an incredible singer. This piece—for piano, quartet, and voice—started out as a poem I wrote in Icelandic in a café in Midtown Manhattan. It’s about the emotions of being in love and everything that comes with that. I’ve been writing a lot of poems throughout the last years, but I couldn’t put this one aside. So I started writing music to it, and the whole piece came out really naturally.” Brotin “‘Brotin’ [‘Broken’] is the last piece I composed for the album, when I had just moved back to Iceland and was feeling very emotionally broken. It’s a piece that demonstrates my most vulnerable state of being. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to include it, because it wasn’t ready a week before the recording. But it came together as I was improvising in the studio five days beforehand.” Bylur “I felt that leading up to ‘Bylur’ would be the right thing to do. I wrote it for string quartet, double bass, and brass, and it’s the most powerful piece on the album—everything leads up to this powerful moment. ‘Bylur’ stands for anything in a snowstorm can be beautiful. It’s a track at the end of an album that expresses all of my emotions, all the positivity that I’ve gone through, all the negative realizations and personal growth.”

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