The last time that cellist Gyda Valtysdottir was on this page, it was the dead of this past February and at that point, her most recent release was a celebration of her fellow Icelandic composers. On her new album Ox – streaming at Bandcamp – the Mum cellist makes a halfway return to artsy, invitingly dreamy, atmospheric rock, retaining the orchestral sweep of her previous effort, Epicycle II.
The opening piece is Alphabet, a slowly unwinding, vast seascape, strings and winds soaring warmly overhead. Valtysdottir sings in cautious English in her distinctive, whispery high soprano.
A conspiratorial spoken-word piece set to densely orchestrated, opaque trip-hop, the second song, Black Swan comes across as symphonic Radiohead.
Dreamy vocals waft over a simple guitar loop and icy piano as the vampy In Corde gathers steam, up to a swaying, hypnotic orchestral crescendo. Cute Kittens Lick Cream is a peaceful instrumental tableau with steady piano amid the mist, flutist Alex Sopp adding whimsical flurries at the end. Riffs diverge, flicker in and out of the ether in Miracle, the most atmospheric track here.
Individual instrumental voices peep and burst up through the mist in Prism as a steady, circling rhythm develops. In Heavenly Piracy, Valtysdottir sets surreal, vaguely assaultive spoken word over a slowly coalescing trip-hop groove. Is that lyric “Bite me rightfully?”
With dissociative harp and shifting string textures, the brief Tell It evokes a broken music box. There’s a return to immersive angst and also more lavish sweep in Amaying, the album’s final cut.