Living Room Songs is an arresting project from Ólafur Arnalds that has experimented with the online community’s listening experience, expanding upon Found Songs (2009) in which the Icelandic composer wrote, recorded and released a free song every day for a week. This latest venture progresses beyond his previous work by inviting the audience into the living room of his Rekjavik apartment via a video recording of each performance. This allows us to view the process in more depth by witnessing the live performances of each piece, giving a rare insight into the musician’s world and forming a stronger relationship with the music as it unfolds in an increasingly familiar setting.

Arnalds’ home is clearly a place of free expression for him, and the setting is crucial to the overall effect as there is something about the gentleness of the pieces that makes them incredibly personal and private listening. When the first track ‘Fyrsta’ was posted online, he stated that the “piano theme was the first thing I managed to write while temporarily living in Los Angeles after weeks of severe creative block while trying to adjust to a new and strange place.” Bringing this theme back to his home along with his audience creates some kind of synergy between us and the composition as it evolves.

The personal nature of the music is elevated in the second song ‘Near Light’ on which the composer’s mother and sister play synthesisers. The introduction of electronic percussion also creates an intense climax to this piece that makes the subtle piano ending seem stark and all the more moving as a consequence. On the third day Arnalds’ steps back from the performance, instead conducting the string quartet from his sofa as they play a variation on a theme from his score to the film Another Happy Day.

The acoustics in the living room are wonderfully pure and on the fourth day; ‘Tomorrow’s Song’ drops the accompaniment of the strings to be performed solely on piano. It is a polished version of a theme Arnalds’ improvised live in Berlin on his solo-tour and another example of his creative process being exhibited in this more private format. The strings rejoin on day 5 for ‘Ágúst’ in anticipation of the project’s grandest, most stirring song on day 6: ‘Lag fyrir Ömmu’. This touching tribute to his grandmother begins with a piano introduction that intensifies as more support joins from the fourteen string musicians that fill the living room.

On posting the final track; ‘This Place Is A Shelter’; Arnalds explained that it is having a "home" to come back to that keeps him going when he is away for much of the time. While as an outsider, this week-long invitation to his living room has been a fascinating insight into his life and process, it feels almost an intrusion on such a private and emotional production of music. Recording the album as a progression of live visual-sessions is an attractive nod to an increasingly popular Vincent Moon style of film-making; but displaying so much inside Arnalds’ shelter feels almost a step too far. It is not just the intimacy with the artist that is important in Moon’s film-making but the public nature of the performances, which reinvents the music.

Ignoring the visual aspect of Living Room Songs and focusing solely on the music reveals an emotive and flowing collection that weaves and swells through its short duration. The intense sorrow that arises from some of the themes means it can make for difficult listening; although arguably that is all part of the beauty, and exactly what we’ve come to expect from Ólafur Arnalds.