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Tag: Úlfur Hansson

A Lush, Symphonic Art-Rock Album From Gyda Valtysdottir

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.

Darkly Colorful Cellist Gyda Valtysdottir Celebrates Her Fellow Icelanders

The last time that cellist Gyda Valtysdottir was on this page, it was 2013 and her atmospheric trip-hop/postrock band Mum had just put out their Smilewound album. Since then she’s taken a deeper plunge into new classical music. Her latest album Epicycle II – streaming at Bandcamp – is a collection of enveloping new electroacoustic works by colleagues from her native Iceland.

The first track, Skúli Sverrisson’s Unfold, is an increasingly brooding, almost maddeningly unresolved series of duotone chords, up the staircase, then down and around. In her airy high soprano, Valtysdottir half-whispers over stately, minimalist pizzicato in Ólöf Arnalds’ loopy waltz Safe to Love, rising to some bracing doublestops.

Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s Mykros has looming lows, hazy atmospherics and approximations of whale song. Valtysdottir digs in triumphantly when Úlfur Hansson’s Morphogenesis….well…morphs out of pulsing, looped phrases to a gritty swell and then a long, stark upward climb with some flute-like harmonics – it’s musical M.C. Escher.

Kjartan Sveinsson’s Liquidity features stately, spare piano and also percussion. It’s the album’s lone departure into uneasily if anthemically crescendoing art-rock, in keeping with the composer’s background in atmospheric rock. The lingering tone poem Air to Breath, by Daníel Bjarnason has some breathtakingly anticipatory, cantabile phrasing.

Jónsi’s Evol Lamina (spell it backwards, Sonic Youth style) reflects the title – it’s the album’s lone throwaway. Appropriately, the record’s eighth and final composition is María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir’s Octo, an increasingly atmospheric series of variations on a brooding four-note phrase.