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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.

Customer Reviews

Headphone Commute Review

It is dark, dense, and brooding. The sky is gray. Winter is refusing to leave. Wind becomes the rhythm; dissonance - the melody. In the delicate hands of the Berlin-based (but Icelandic by birth) Hildur Guðnadóttir, the cello whispers and moans. Perhaps it's grieving for an uncertain future, perhaps accepting a buried past. The voice of sorrow seeps through the trembling fingers and saturates everything around it with something invisible, but wet and salty. Then, a heavy, thick and warm knot builds up inside my chest. And when I sigh, it escapes in a condensed vapor, ascends past the naked tree tops and joins a dark cloud in a stubborn winter sky. Finally the rain falls. And I cringe at all the pain. Hildur Guðnadóttir is not a newcomer to the scene. As a classically trained cellist, she has previously performed with and contributed to works by her Icelandic contemporary artists such as múm, Valgeir Sigurðsson, and Ben Frost, as well as Hafler Trio, Nico Muhly, and even Pan Sonic. For Without Sinking she was able to round up a talented group of friends, like Skúli Sverrisson, the prolific Jóhann Jóhannsson, and her father, Guðni Franzson. Dropping all of the above names should give you a brief idea of the circle that Guðnadóttir revolves in. I guess it's not surprising, since she is an active member in the neu-Iceland collective, Kitchen Motors. This is _the_ Reykjavík music scene think tank, owned and operated by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Kira Kira, and Hilmar Jensson. Without any exaggerations, this is indeed an acoustic modern classical marvel. Absolutely a must for this year! Add Without Sinking and Guðnadóttir's previous works to your collection. The debut album Mount A (12 Tónar, 2006) was originally released under the moniker Lost in the Hildurness. Her recent one-track complimentary release to the album, Iridescence (Touch, 2009), is only available as a digital download, as part of a new series of digital singles launched by Touch on April 1st. On May 16th, 2009, Hildur Guðnadóttir is scheduled to perform for Short Circuit, A Festival of Electronica, during a Touch showcase along with BJ Nilsen, Philip Jeck and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble, and [back on the road!] Biosphere!!! If you're anywhere around The Roundhouse in London, please go... For me...

Darker than the average bear.

If you lived on top of a barren boiling steaming treeless volcanic powderkeg in the middle of the freezing ocean you would sound like this too.


Simply brilliant.

Without Sinking, Hildur Gudnadottir
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Customer Ratings