Hildur Gudnadottir - Mount A


Aquarius Records (USA):

Not a brand new record, but instead a reissue of a 2006 album from one of our favorite cellists, Hildur Gudnadottir, who in the past has contributed brilliantly to records by Sigur Ros, Mum, BJ Nilsen and others, but whose solo records are even more fantastic. Focusing of course on the cello, she also incorporates zither, gamelan, viola, piano, vibraphone and more into a sound that's haunting and brooding, mystical and mysterious, the instruments subtly treated, melodies multitracked, gorgeous lush landscapes of blurred string sections, cinematic swells giving way to hazy murky blur, notes stretched out into warm whirling melodic tangles, complex counterpoint, ever shifting overtones, every track here a gloriously lush and emotionally charged miniature epic that hovers in some impossible space between classical, avant garde and drone, but always with a distinctly human element, these are the sort of deep and powerful songs and sounds that effortlessly evoke a sense of wistful melancholia, emotions that are definitely at odds with the smiling candid snapshot cover photo, these tracks like miniature soundtracks for fading memories and lost loves...

So gorgeous.

Tokafi (Germany):

A gloomy medieval smack: Tantric hammer blows of time.

Influences can constitute a perfectly natural part of an artist's maturation process. But they can also stifle creative development. For years, Hildur Gudnadóttir would oscillate between the classical sphere and rock music, between her calling as a cellist and an interest in computer technology. It was only after she broke away from the dictates of mandatory lessons and turned towards studying composition and new media in Reykjavik and Berlin that she truly found her own vocabulary. Since then, she has somehow managed, on the one hand, to fulfill and even exceed expectations and, on the other, to utterly confound them: Gudnadóttir's duets with German prepared-piano-magician Hauschka seemed to give in to the neoclassical temptation, while wilful collaborations with Throbbing Gristle and electro-deconstructionists Pan Sonic brutally smashed it apart. Her strong affinity for the archaic qualities of music appeared to cater to widespread cliches about Icelandic music and yet a plethora of details revealed her to be a musician with a truly international scope. Today, her own name, rather than her affiliation with a clear-cut genre or scene, has turned into her real asset, representing a personal approach between tradition and the present, the concert hall and art spaces, meditative states and energetic improvisations.

This idiosyncratic path notwithstanding, aforementioned debut album, now re-released in a remastered version through Touch four years after its initial publication on local label 12 Tónar, was never completely free from external references. By making use of instruments like the viola da gamba (a precursor to the modern violin, whose popularity started to wane in the 18th century), zither and moran khuur (a mongolian horse-headed fiddle), Mount A's sound had a gloomy medieval smack to it, while the inclusion of vibraphone and gamelan elements simultaneously added a cosmopolitan touch of world music to the equation. Holding these contrasting poles together was Gudnadóttir's cello which, occasionally seamlessly blending with her own singing, represented the voice of humanity amidst a timbrally sparse sonic continuum that placed the listener inside the massive, fortified walls of a ghost-plagued castle in an abandoned Viking colony. Time was suspended, bent backwards and looped itself into acoustic Moebius strips in her imagination, speaking in runic tongues, expressing itself in tantric hammer blows and praising the technological advances of multitracking all at once.

Even more astounding, however, was how completely naturally Gudnadóttir managed to reunite minimal music's two closely-aligned yet nonetheless counterpuntual tendencies towards meditative stasis and vivid pulsation. Although these pieces were continually propelled by mantrically repeated cello-lines, their shamanic ostinatos seemed to be running against an invisible wall of tightly compressed harmonies and infinitely sustained tones, never advancing beyond their original point of departure. While one part of her music was always moving, the other never even budged, creating tense soundscapes caught in a state of perpetual suspense through their underlying antagonisms. The impression was not quite unlike the kind of nervous equilibrium upheld by the works of Hungarian composer Györgi Legti, from whose dense harmonic swarms the occasional melodic theme or rhythmic pattern would rise for a few seconds like a solar protuberance only to drop back into the gravitational field of a monolithic mass again. Consciously left in its organic unquantised state and imbued with a sense of breath and irregularity, these sequences were turning into inner dervish dances, into occult rituals of the mind.

Between these discrete and more often than not subcutaneously transmitted allusions, however, one could already hear the distant din of the drills and hammers Gudnadóttir was handling to construct her very own reality out of these recognisable building blocks. When, as on “Self", microtonally refined zither-patterns were dissolving into ethereal drones; rich, cinematic string swells were poised against visionary film-noir-jazz-moods (“In Gray"); or futuristic bell-sonorities and chiming bleeps created a scintillating, threedimensionally rotating caleidoscope (“Earbraces"), Mount A far surpassed the post of clever juxtaposition. Placed side by side, the seeming immobility of these pieces, mostly condensed to their three- or four-minute-essence, turned into their strongest character trait. Gudnadóttir was virtually sculpting sonic objects from naked stone, leaving their rough and grainy surface intact. The act of listening was one of feeling their texture, appreciating the rawness of their outlines and discovering secretly engraved nuances. It was the exact opposite of an ambient-artist's favourite objective, immersion: A concentrated, deeply penetrating analytical gaze which scanned her inventions and extracted powerful emotional resonance in return.

Over the course of her next releases, Gudnadóttir would gradually refine these ideas, increasingly preferring a combination of spontaneity and meticulous organisation over the expressionist outbursts of her early years. With hindsight, however, it has remained intriguing to note that even at her most impulsive and unfiltered, she never allowed her inspirations to stifle her creativity, tightly integrating them into an intriguing cobweb of allusions. [Tobias Fischer]

VITAL (Netherlands):

The album 'Mount A' by Hildur Gudnadottir was previously released on 12Tonar under the name of Lost In Hildurness. That was in 2006. Since then Gudnadottir has made name for herself by playing cello with Nix Noltes band and alongside with Mum, Pan Sonic, Angel, Stillusteypa and BJ NIlsen. Her previous album, 'Without Sinking' (see Vital Weekly 672) was released by Touch, who now take the opportunity to re-release her 2006 album, using a new master, courtesy of Denis Blackham. While the cello is the main instrument here, she also uses gamba, zither, khuur and the gamelan. No doubt with the aid of electronics that put things into a loop, which can be used as a basis for the composition - or of course a multitude of such loops. Her previous album was received with some consideration, but this album is pretty good. Its more joyous, free and perhaps also naive. Atmospheric, of course (how can it not be when there is a cello involved), spacious and intimate. But all played with a sense of naivety, which greatly serves the music. Modern classical with a smile, even when all of these pieces seem highly personal. Its hard to explain, but I think Gudnadottir likes to play with these classical notions and pull a joke, but in a serious way. I don't think this makes much sense, right? Find out for yourself. I thought this was a most pleasing album. [FdW]

Cutting Edge (Belgium):

De IJslanders zijn waarschijnlijk het raarste volkje dat onze aardkloot bewoont. Ze zijn maar met een half miljoen, maar wat een recente geschiedenis! De weelde die ze het laatste decennium binnenhaalden, bleek gebouwd op pure speculatie. Toen dat aan de licht kwam, werd het land in een ongeziene financiële crisis ondergedompeld. Ze hebben de actiefste vulkanen van de planeet. Daarnaast beoefent de meerderheid van de IJslanders een of andere kunstvorm. Het percentage muzikanten ligt onwaarschijnlijk hoog. De uitstroom van muzikanten en bandjes naar de rest van Europa is even groot. Om de drie maanden worden we wel met een nieuwe naam om de oren geslagen.

Ondanks de economische crisis blijft de IJslandse artistieke hausse maar voortduren. De nieuwe trend is bovendien niet meer zozeer elektronisch maar neoklassiek. Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir of Gudnadóttir is een celliste die onder meer meewerkte met het Finse elektronicaduo Pan Sonic en met het Ijslandse collectief múm. In 2009 bracht ze het fel geprezen soloalbum ‘Without Sinking’ uit. De erkenning noopte Touch om haar eersteling opnieuw uit te brengen. ‘Mount A’ werd in 2006 uitgebracht onder het pseudoniem Lost In Hildurness op het IJslandse 12 Tónar, maar kreeg nu een oppoetsbeurt en wordt in een door Denis Blackman geremasterde versie opnieuw uitgebracht.

Een album met alleen maar met de zwaarmoedige klanken van een cello? Je kunt je daar vragen bij stellen, maar Guðnadóttir brengt het er vrij goed van af. De opnames vonden voornamelijk plaats in het afgelegen IJslandse gehucht Hólar, maar ook in New York. Dat ‘Mount A’ een duister en weemoedig album is, staat buiten kijf. ‘Light’ drijft op één enkele melancholische lang aangehouden noot en is allesbehalve licht. In ‘Floods’ en ‘Casting’ duiken embryonale melodieën op. Het licht- en schaduwspel gaat door op ‘Shadowed’ en ‘Growth’.

Gaandeweg breidt Hildur haar instrumentenpalet uit met de exotische en lichtere klanken van gamba, zither, khuur en gamelan. Dat geeft een meerwaarde aan het album. ‘Earbraces’ klinkt onaards mooi met zijn bel- en gongachtige gamelanklanken. Het tien minuten durende ‘You’ is het kroonstuk van het album. Je zou zweren dat hier een orkest aan het werk is, maar Hildur beroert zelf alle instrumenten. ‘Mount A’ is een album als een nachtelijk woud om langzaam en tergend traag in te verdwalen en een welkome aanvulling bij het veel toegankelijkere ‘Without Sinking’. 'Mount A' is een wondermooi werkstuk met een heel lange houdbaarheidsdatum. [Peter Wullen]

Ikonen (Germany):

2006 veröffentlichte die Multiinstrumentalistin Hildur Gudnadottir (mùm, Pan Sonic, The Nix Noltes Band) ein bemerkenswertes Soloalbum: "Lost in Hildurness" sollte persönlich und intim sein, alle Instrumente wurden von ihr selbst gespielt: Cello, Viola, Piano, Vibraphon und Gamelan.

2010 remasterte der legendäre Denis Blackham das Album, und nun erscheint es unter dem neuen Titel "Mount A" noch einmal, um eine neue Zuhörerschaft zu überzeugen. Für viele wird "Mount A" also wie ein neues Album klingen, dass es in sich hat. Getragen von elegischen Streichermelodien entwickelt es einen melancholischen Sog, der allenfalls mit Hilmar Örn Hilmarssons "Children of Nature" vergleichbar ist. Schwermütig, nostalgisch, unheimlich an einigen Stellen gar. Und immer introspektiv.

Wer die ätherische Schönheit von Arvo Pärt und die nordische Melancholie schätzt, wird "Mount A" ins Herz schließen. "Mount A" - ein filigranes Werk von erhabener Schönheit. Ein Soundtrack zum einsamen Tag am herbstlichen Strand... [Marcus Stiglegger]

Kindamuzik (Germany):

Hildur Gudnadóttir is voornamelijk bekend van haar samenwerkingen met Múm, Pansonic en recent Jóhann Jóhannsson maar haar solo-uitingen zijn mogelijk nog indrukwekkender. Op haar eentje maakt Hildur Gudnadóttir met behulp van onder meer cello, vibrafoon, piano en viool meeslepende geluidstapijten die het midden houden tussen beklijvende melancholie en beeldschone melodieën.

De opnames van Mount A dateren al van 2006 en werden eerder als Lost in Hildurness op het kleinere IJslandse 12 Tónar uitgebracht, maar zijn sinds enige tijd niet meer beschikbaar. Deze hermasterde heruitgave is gerechtvaardigd, want het oudere werk van Gudnadóttir klinkt ijler en dromeriger dan het vorig jaar uitgebrachtte Without Sinking.

Dat Mount A meer ingetogen klinkt, heeft wellicht te maken heeft met het feit dat Gudnadóttir zich niet door gasten liet bijstaan. Het is net deze minimale ingetogenheid die van Mount A een uiterst persoonlijke plaat maakt die perfect op zichzelf staat en Gudnadóttir als unieke soloartiest weerom met stip op de kaart zet. [Hans van der Linden]

Armchair Dancefloor (UK):

Originally released under the artist name Lost in Hildurness, this remastered version of Hildur Gudnadottir’s 2007 album Mount A will more than do while we wait for a follow up to her despairing 2009 album Without Sinking. Primarily a cellist, Gudnadottir plays all the instruments here: cello, viola, piano, gamelan, vibraphone and zither. Slabs of Shostakovich and Kodály jut out from the blasted landscape of these sorrowful pieces. Pärt and Górceki echo in her playing, too: a heavy European misery, with hints of the sacred, that will alienate and frustrate as many (or most probably more) as it appeals to. Mount A’s few upbeat moments tend towards the strangulated panic of ‘Shadowed’, or the anxious fretting of ‘My’. Most interesting of all is the argumentative counterpoint of ‘Reflection’, which loses the battle it has with itself to resist becoming beautiful. [Chris Power]

Arpeggi (Italy):

Tornano a brillare i tesori tutt'altro che grezzi degli esordi della violoncellista Hildur Gudnadottir, anche questa volta lustrati dalla stessa Touch.
Ristampa quasi necessaria, di seguito ai successi di "Without Sinking" (Touch 2009) e all'inevitabile sintomo d'interesse verso un'artista rimasta per troppo tempo nelle seconde file.

Vale la pena quindi accontentarsi del semplice suono, perché al solito la Gudnadottir ci mette anche l'anima, mostrando prima il suo lato oscuro e imprevedibile (Light), scavando poi nelle morbosità (Floods), scivolando sui confini ambient (Casting) e cavalcando sempre un nuovo classicismo dalla forma romantica e dolente.

In cadenza fino al silenzio, il clima morbido e ombroso di "Self" che veicola le arcate tra punteggiature d'arpa, traghettando "Growth" verso le tentazioni più corpose e notturne.
I rivoli di suoni non rinunciano all'equilibrio (My) -splendida per la flessibilità tra ritmo e armonia- ma contemporaneamente non sembrano lasciare una traccia tangibile al passaggio (Reflection) volutamente disgregandosi nell'astratto.

Presupposti tutt'altro che differenti quindi, l'atmosfera messianica di "Mount A" non si guasta rispetto all'originaria edizione del 2006 che l'artista ai tempi proponeva sotto altro nome (Lost In Hildurness) ma le pennellate precise e dilatate di violoncello- tra variazioni, melodia e loop- sembrano trovare il giusto equilibrio con la quiete, il pensiero e l'evocativo.

Nulla da disquisire, infine, sull'operazione che contribuisce sui valori dei pezzi in questione e sottolinea il siffatto crisma della Hildur, che sa come mantenere il fascino non solo in fase di collaborazioni (Mum, Pan Sonic, Ben Frost e via dicendo) ma specialmente nelle prove soliste.
E a corda non tende a sfibrarsi nemmeno rispolverando un esordio. (6/7) [Sara Bracco]

Resonant Strata (web):

That there is more to Hildur Gudnadóttir than just being part of the indie electronic super group we all know as Mûm, is no news anyone anymore. Her first solo album for Touch was highly featured and recognized.

Now Touch re-releases her debut album Mount A that was released in 2006 on the small islandic label 12 Tónar under the name of Lost in Hildurness. While not being as dense as her "Without Sinking" work, Mount A is a perfectly executed and highly detailed neo classical cello work. Melody patterns stumble over themselves, forming a brooding body of minimalistic phasing structures. But Mount A also offers more open, nearly cembalo like pieces. Airy and floating melodies drown in moving cello back-droppings. Deeply vibrating strings echo in the dark shadows.

It's not quite sure, which direction the whole album really wants to take. While some pieces offer a more melancholic side, the album breaks open several times to make place for lighter textures and sweeter melodies. The more folkish and brighter moments towards the end of Mount A favor a more happy ending and yet the droning low registers still hint to a darker, more threatening side. A beautiful ride that could at places have a more defined aim.

Cyclic Defrost (Australia):

Mount A is the second solo album by cellist and Mum, Pan Sonic and Animal Collective collaborator Hildur Gu?nadóttir after 2008's Without Sinking, but was originally issued by Tonar in 2006 under the name 'Lost in Hildurness'. Given that it was heralded 'the perfect soundtrack to get lost in a forest at night', that title was appropriate; 'Mount A' is more abstract, perhaps intended to leave more imagination to the listener, a fitting approach for music of such mournful introspection.

While the cello dominates Gu?nadóttir also plays viola da gamba, zither, khuur and gamelan, but all 'world music' references are lost within the overall texture of each piece, obfuscated in clouds of blurred, reverberant haze. Given the penchant for minor keys, slow pace and persistent gloom, it's as though perceiving the music through tear-stained eyes, or recalling distant memories with longing and regret. The likes of Arvo Part and Valentin Silvestrov are the most obvious compositional antecedents but, given the disparate instrumentation, Gu?nadóttir makes repeat references to folk music traditions, less specific than universal, Mount A standing for experience and suffering across borders and throughout time. [Joshua Meggitt]

Hair Entertainment (DE):

Eine der bemerkenswertesten Neuerscheinungen dieser Tage möchte ich als die von Marcia Bassett & Margarida Garcia bezeichnen, die sich mit THE WELL fast post-strukturell auf alte Tugenden berufen, deren Bestandteile pur atavistisch noch Live-Feedback, Guitar Amp und Rekorder, also Aufnahmen 1 zu 1 sind. Heutzutage überall heiß propagiert, dennoch aber unterkühlt gehandelt. Anders herum gesagt, es wird zwar gehandelt, aber kaum noch positiv propagiert. Das muss jetzt nichts heissen, ausser dass vielleicht dass heute zu The WELL hören wohl auch irgend ein Stimulant gehört, schon der schönen Rezeption wegen, was wiederum aber auch nicht heisst, dass diese Musik ohne Stimulant nicht zu erforschen wäre. Das kann man schon tun. Nur macht dies wenig Sinn, auf den ersten Blick jedenfalls. Musik ohne Ziel und nur zum eigenen Zweck scheint nicht anzukommen, wohl ins Nirgendwo zu wandern, scheint zu verschwinden, ohne einen Taste vom ultimativen Spektakel. Aber auch dieses wird geschluckt, hier und jetzt, in der Post-Post Moderne, um verschlungen zu werden von den Oxtongues der kaustisch niedlichen Neuzeit. Wir sind angekommen, bleeb bleeb post-apokalyptisch und definitiv. Brot und Spiele, Jungens! Und genau dieses werde sein. The Well macht mit Bass, Guitar, Viola einen Sound aus Glas, passend zu einem Soundtrack für Quentin Tarantinos nächstem Schinken. Sam Prekop, the old punch card, war in the Sea and the Cake, war mit Archer Prewitt und mit Jim O`Rourke dereinst im Studio, nur um jetzt essentielle, aber schwierig zu verdauende Schnipsel aus Field-Recordings zu präsentieren, die zwar allerhand plucken, knacken und knarzen, letzten Endes doch aber auf ein Random-Listening hinauslaufen. Knust ist nicht immer gleich Knust Sam, auch wenn der Gedanke am Gedanken so nahe liegt. Dies gilt aber für die meisten Artisten, die nun seit 5 Jahren miterwähnt werden, und überhaupt, für jeden da draussen, ob nun mit oder ohne Reputaiton, es sei vermerkt, Klappe auf, salopp zappeln, Wein trinken und am Geigerzähler wurschteln, das mag wohl unterschieden werden. Schönes Album Sam Prekop, vom Frosch zum Zweibeiner, es fehlen nur noch ein paar Schritte, gehet! Ein ganz komische Platte hat da Jon Langford gemacht, den ihr ja alle kennt von den The Three Johns, Mekons und so weiter. Heute macht der Junge straight forward Rock n Country, ach was!? Wie dazumals auch, aber eben doch anders, denn in den Melodien von Old Devils lebt das Gen von all diesen unbekannten, unbegrabenen Gems aus den 80ern, dem Beginn der absoluten Negation. Jon Langford / Skull Orchard jedenfalls klingen wohltemperiert für alle diejenigen, die heute lieber nicht mit der eigenen ego-zentrierten Inkontinenz beschäftigt sind, oder all den jungen, rezeptionslosen, audiomatisiert agierenden Neulingen, die fast alles aus einer Zeit aufnehmen, die ohne wenn und aber ging, hauptsache, ja es perlt. Langford, ein alter Sack je nu, mag dieses selbst wohl wissen, wir aber, jung und unabgehangen, mögen erst aufmerken, wenn zu spät die Türen schliessen, wenn im Morgengrauen das nicht-mehr-schlafen-können ein wohlbekanntes Syndrom aufzeigt, das weniger mit dem Jetzt zu tun hat, als mit dem Ungefähr und Später. Sehr schöne Scheibe, dies! Cindytalk sind da ein anderes Kaliber, wobei man gleich von vorne weg negieren muss, dass Cindytalk auf dieser Scheibe mit live recorded Sounds arbeiten, was ja seine Vorteile haben kann. Ich wünschte mir nur, die Leute würden mehr Abstand nehmen von jenen suggestiv aufgewärmten Befindlichkeitssounds, einer zum atmosphericmatsch verdichteten Ambiente, die uns alle in ein Universum übermittelt, das so gar nichts, aber auch nicht mal im Geringsten was mit dem zu tun hat, was wir tun müssen, um Nahrung zu beschaffen oder die Miete zu zahlen. Welches zu tun Schwierigkeiten seinesgleichen aufwirft, die wie, wann, wo, warum auch immer auftauchen, ausser bei Hildur Gudnadóttir, die neben bei Müm eben auch ihre eigenen Sachen entwirft, ob jetzt mit oder ohne spezifische Intention, einem voll ausgeklügeltem Konzept oder der Abstaktion als Solches wegen, das sei dahingestellt, sie macht seit jeher Platten bei Touch, und jedes Mal, bei einem neuen Release, frage ich mich, warum da wohl immer diese blurred-landscape Fotos von Jon Wozencroft die Grafik bestimmten, was der wohl dafür machen muss, dass er immer und immer wieder seine Fotos einbringen kann, die ja eigentlich ohne Verbindung stehen zum jeweiligen Album. Dass Hildur heute hier draussen ist um den kleinen lebendig wurmenden Erdlingen ein wenig Angst zu machen, ohne aber allzu dick aufzutragen, und ihr danach etwa schlecht träumt, das ist ja wohl offensichtlich eine Kunst, und auch mit ihrem neuen Album Mount A beweisst Hildur nur eines, oder zweies, dass sie vielleicht gar nicht anders will und kann ausser im Akkord Bettwäsche zu wechseln für Gäste und Freunde aus Rejkjavik, wo ein Cello, eine Zither, eine Viola spielen, deren Abstraktion, Partitur und sinistres Sentiment in sich gesehen ein einzig elysisches Element entwickelt.

allmusic.com (USA):

This album features strings and subtle electronics -- not beats, but almost subsonic drones, lurking behind violins and cellos, which are producing overtones themselves as their long notes ring out and blend with each other. It's instrumental music that sets up and sustains a foreboding mood, like the soundtrack to a highly polished film about Men with Secrets. Listening to it through headphones will make a person start glancing over his or her shoulder, to make sure there's no one lurking in the shadows. It has an arctic starkness, too, clearly the product of Iceland, minus any of the quirkiness that shows up in that country's rock acts like Björk and Sigur Rós. Track titles like "Shadowed" and "In Gray" tell the tale; this is post-Górecki music, minus the spiritual uplift. It's not depressing, though; instead, it has a hypnotic effect, the powerful drones mingling like crosscurrents in the ocean. When faster, upper-register passages emerge, like the violin line that opens "Shadowed," it's surprising, because everything that's come before has been so low, almost rumbling. Similarly, the use of bells on "In Gray" add an element of meditative beauty that draws the listener in even more deeply. This is quite beautiful music, recommended to audiences beyond classical circles.

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Hildur Gudnadottir - Mount A

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Track 7:  In Gray

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