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Without Sinking

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Album Review

Though Without Sinking is only Hildur Gudnadottir's second solo release, her collaborative work with many different artists clearly signals both her abilities and her understandable confidence in them, the result being a captivating, often unsettled release. By steering away from either straightforward orchestrations or more obvious traditions of classical experimentation in favor of a hybrid sound that also intertwines electronics and studio production with her cello-led compositions, Gudnadottir from the start seems to be floating on a bed of dark but beautiful ice. The slow moans of the cello on "Elevation" looping around the understated background of the piece sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album, but does not lock it fully into a set path. Gudnadottir is just as capable of working with the movingly elegiac, as on "Ascent," as with the cryptic and suggestive, something that "Whiten," individual notes shimmering past each other like strange whale songs, does incredibly well. When her first direct melody appears on "Erupting Light," the contrast with what has already gone before is almost shocking, but the loping, stirring line is sometimes paused and interrupted, contrasting parts playing beneath it, or in a continuous ghostly shade. Meantime, "Aether," which relies on zither rather than cello, sounds like a series of alien signals beaming through the titular substance, followed by a guest clarinet part that gently shifts the mood back to a contemplative melancholy.

Without Sinking, Hildur Gudnadottir
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