Hildur Gudnadottir - Saman [LP]

LP - 11 tracks

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye
Vinyl cut by Jason @ Transition

This album is about resonance: on "Saman", which means "Together", Hildur melts her voice with her cello, connecting the two instruments together. The result is a highly involving and moving album, recorded, mixed and mastered in Berlin. Hildur’s sylph-like vocals contrast beautifully with rich cello tones, resolving the tension between light and dark to produce a unique listening experience.

Vinyl Track listing:

Side A

1. Strokur
2. Frá
3. Birting
4. Heyr Himnasmiður
5. Bær

Side B

6. Heima
7. Í hring
8. Rennur upp
9. Til baka
10. Líður
11. Þoka

[CD Track listing:

1. Strokur
2. Frá
3. Birting
4. Heyr Himnasmiður
5. Bær
6. Heima
7. Í hring
8. Rennur upp
9. Til baka
10. Líður
11. Torrek
12. Þoka]

All tracks composed, performed and recorded by Hildur Guðnadóttir in Berlin, except Heyr Himnasmiður (track 4), composed by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, lyrics by Kolbeinn Tumason. Cello made by David Wiebe in 1991. [Cello nr 49]

Track 6, bass by Skúli Sverrisson, 6 string fretted cello built by Hans Jóhannsson, resonated through two grand pianos.

Tracks 1, 4 and 6 recorded by Francesco Donadello.

All tracks mixed by Francesco Donadello and Hildur Guðnadóttir at Vox-Ton Studio, Berlin.

Reviews:

Norman Records (UK):

Out of all the modern classical practitioners, Hildur Guðnadóttir is probably my favourite. That she shares her surname with a certain international superstar from the same country is quite fitting. Hildur's music gives me goosebumps every time. If she hadn't have grinned so sweetly at me from the digipak of her 'Mount A' album a few years ago I might never have become so smitten with this elegiac cello-drenched world of hers. Also her work with Hauschka on the incredible 'Pan/Tone' is arguably the finest release that the visionary Sonic Pieces imprint ever put out. That album is a dream from beginning to end. Like all her work. Yes, I've a major crush. Leave me alone!

I won't harp on at length over this latest exquisitely-housed collection. Her cello drones are deep, low and emotionally penetrating, not to mention highly suspenseful, all setting your mind in a richly enticing chamber-like embrace. Then her beautiful ethereal voice joins the party a few tracks in causing me to melt into my chair with a creeping smile spreading over my fizzgog. This is sparse, powerful and stirring music with real pathos, resonance and integrity. By 'Heima' we've a different vibe emerging. Underpinned by thrumming, hypnotic bass cycles, this is a deliciously eerie piece with lost pixie lullaby vocals near-whispered in that gorgeous Icelandic tongue. The atmosphere of this song is so electric, so intimate that you could curl up and go to sleep inside of it. I'll leave you to discover the subsequent half of the album in peace. Mark my words, you'll thank me.

Another treasure from our Hildur on the ever rewarding Touch. Another one also for the collection methinks..... [Brian]

New York Times (UK):

An Icelandic cellist with a deep, singing tone, Hildur Gudnadottir has worked in settings spanning art-rock, new music and experimental-folk, but her solo output inhabits its own unnamable space. It’s a calm, echoing space, and on “Saman” (Touch) she makes it feel as still and sacred as a cathedral. On some pieces she sings in a faintly medieval mode, blending her high voice with her instrument’s overtones. She seems to be after a kind of enlightened solitude — only one track, “Heima,” features an additional musician, the bassist Skuli Sverrisson — and she often finds it, with a spirit both sombre and generous.

A Closer Listen (USA):

Saman, which the liner notes indicate is Icelandic for “together”, grounds itself on a subtle form of melancholy, as if the listener was looking at a landscape where something cherished used to stand a long time ago. The ‘togetherness’ surely alludes to cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir‘s singing, in the sense that she’s incorporated her voice to an expression mostly based on the string instrument. However, there is another aspect to it, suggested perhaps by the album’s cover in its dislocation of conventional perspective: the sky in the water, the trees on a horizontal line, the plants that seem to compose a shore but in reality are another part of the river or lake… the mirror image seems to compose a life that knows no bounds, that weaves a whole in which everything flows into a rational form and yet is also deeply driven by emotionality. The voice and cello, like the sky and the water’s surface, grow into each other, shifting the perspective just enough to suggest the listener to think about that landscape where times meet, where it is no longer possible to know the place in separation of a memory of it, and the warmth of the sun mingles with the cold of the wind.

This is not to say, of course, that they become one, but that there is a playful degree of both in each, the voice flowing into the cello and vice versa, inviting us to hear the harmony as a companionship instead of as a balance, a coming together that treats the cello’s lament as a vocal one and the song’s uplifting melodies as the tones of strings. They do not attempt to define the landscape, to anchor it as irredeemably a memorial expression or a fact of nature, but to make the inner (the quiet, modern singing, the contemplative, long strikes of the bow) coincide with the outer (the quicker pulls and strikes, the choir-like medieval style of certain phrases) in an act of friendship – while the voice is not pervasive, it certainly seems to be meant to linger, to accompany the cello as it expresses the landscape into being. This composition of an organic whole leads the listener through a paradoxical movement that is simultaneously still, as the music intensely evokes a sadness that is carried for miles and miles by streams that nurture all sorts of life on the shores, life that, in drinking all that melancholy and looking up at the radiant sun finds an unspeakable joy, an understanding that the choice between one or the other has always been false.

Against other kinds of solo albums, Guðnadóttir’s playing is restrained, non-virtuosic, passionately modern in its affirmation that every piece, every note, is equal under harmony, that every moment of tears shed is as important as every smile and laughter. Together, the voice and cello work towards a multiplicity of goals, a great variety of feelings that is far from a unity, developing into an album that remains constantly open to re-interpretation, that treads on shape-shifter territory that is haunting and fulfilling, always at the same time, never at the same time. This is what makes Saman special, and it invites constant engagement as much as constant re-articulation: take it with you, change place, be alone or in the company of others, and it will nevertheless later seem to recreate the exact same memory in different ways. So go ahead, look at your surroundings, remember how they’ve changed, and let yourself become part of it not as its center but as its companion. [David Murrieta]

Bleep (UK):

Icelandic cellist and vocalist Hildur Gudnadottir releases Saman, her fourth album for the long-running UK label Touch. Its title translates as Together, and reflects the harmony created by Gudnadottir's own other-worldly vocals and the deftly rendered instrumentation of her cello playing. There is much space here, deeply felt silences balanced against the drawn-out passages of strings swept with true feeling. Wistful melodies and ominous passages abound, beauty and darkness drawn perfectly in equal measure. This is not just music to be listened to - this is to be taken in and felt.

kindamuzik (Netherlands):

Saman betekent zoveel als "samen": dat zat er met slechts een letter verschil wel in. Al had het voor hetzelfde geld een Noorse godheid kunnen zijn die zich naar mythologie verluidt ophoudt in onherbergzame gebieden in IJsland. Het "samen" dat Hildur Guðnadóttir hier bedoelt, ligt in de versmelting van haar cello en stem. Ook overdrachtelijk vormt het album een samenkomen van paden die zij in de voorbije jaren en op eerdere platen bewandeld heft.

In de Engelse taal bestaat de uitdrukking "fully realised and most accomplished." Die uitdrukking gaat volledig op voor Saman. Guðnadóttir klinkt alsof ze alle losse eindjes, die ze soms rafelend verkend heeft, bijeen weet te binden. Saman is af. Het beroemde: "niks meer aan doen, strikje eromheen, koesteren." En dat terwijl de nog jonge celliste/componiste van het bouwjaar 1982 eigenlijk niet eens zo gek veel anders doet dan je van haar gewend bent.

Saman is tegelijk ijl en verdicht, reflecterend en resonant, uitgesponnen en to-the-point, klassiek en eigentijds, traditioneel en avant-garde, licht en donker, expansief en intiem. En dat alles met vrijwel niets meer dan cello en stem. Ja, die ken je al van Guðnadóttir, maar ze sleepte er vaak zo veel andere instrumenten of geloopte lagen bij. Nu spreekt de IJslandse veel directer; met weglating.

Kunstenaar Carl Andre legde een rij platen lood op de grond. Wanneer je dit werk van een afstand benadert, voel je dat de suggestie van een muur wordt gewekt terwijl deze er niet is. Erop staand, een must bij Andre's werken, waan je je in een zuil van niets die tot aan de hemel (of naar beneden) rijkt. Zo'n suggestie wekt Guðnadóttir ook; die ervaring is even intens persoonlijk. En net als Andre is Guðnadóttir zeker niet ontdaan van een hang naar het grote(re), het meer- of meestomvattende: een transcendentie ergens van het minimale naar het monumentale. De kunst ligt daar waar dit niet naast of uit het werk komt, maar waar het ook en vooral erin besloten is. Daar vind je de verbijsterende zeggingskracht van het samen van Saman. [Sven Schlijper]

non pop (Germany):

Musiker aus Island müssen sich seit jeher mit dem Klischee auseinandersetzen, dass ihre Musik zwangsläufig eine akustische Verarbeitung überwältigender Naturgewalten sei. Banales erwarten wir nicht aus Island und wenn es dann doch einmal so kommt, dann hat es nicht einmal beim ESC eine Chance. Vielmehr wollen wir psychedelische Gitarren und verzweifelte Schreie wie von SOLSTAFIR, die über einen herfallen wie ein eisiger Sturm oder die tongewordene Winternachtsmelancholie von HILMAR ÖRN HILMARSSON oder das Weltfremde und Bizarre von BJÖRK. Wer dies ähnlich sieht, der dürfte auch unweigerlich grenzenlose Freude (falls das in dem Kontext der richtig Ausdruck ist) am musikalischen Schaffen der isländischen Cellistin HILDUR GUDNADOTTIR haben, die mit „Saman“ nun ihr viertes Solo-Album vorlegt. Was ist zu HILDUR GUDNADOTTIR zuvor zu sagen? Studierte Cellistin, in Reykjavik und Berlin schaffend, im Umfeld von THE KNIFE/FEVER RAY aktiv und auch zusammenarbeitend mit den reformierten THROBBING GRISTLE.

Der Titel, der soviel wie „Resonanz“ bedeutet, gibt dann auch gleich das Konzept des Albums wieder: Cello und Stimme in Reaktion aufeinander. Das dabei keine Songs im herkömmlichen Sinne entstehen, ist naheliegend. Es entstehen vielmehr Stimmungsbilder und Klanglandschaften; HILDURs ätherische Stimme, die in der Presseinformation nicht umsonst als sylphenhaft beschrieben wird, thront weltfern – und fremd über den meist melancholischen Melodiebögen des Cellos. Will man populäre Musik als Vergleich heranziehen um das Einordnen leichter zu gestalten, so würden sich zweifelsohne die Landsmänner von SIGUR RÓS anbieten, auch wenn HILDURs Musik minimalistischer daherkommt. Tatsächlich zeichnet sie für alles selbst verantwortlich, sieht man einzig und allein von einem Gastbassisten bei dem Stück „Heima“ ab. Und so ist diese CD auch nichts, was sich schnell erschließen lässt. Die Musik fordert Zeit und Aufmerksamkeit, Ruhe und Rückzug ein. Wenn man dem nachkommt, gewinnt sie dafür umso mehr. Schließt man die Augen und lässt sich darauf ein, dann schwebt man, begleitet von fragilen Klängen durch die – und jetzt wird wieder das eingangs erwähnte Klischee bemüht – eisigen Weiten und Gletscher Islands. Wie ein Soundtrack für Naturstimmungen kommt diese CD daher... „Rennur Upp“ verfügt über Rhythmik und eine dezent bedrohliche Stimmung, gleich der Ankündigung eines drohenden Unwetters... Mich hat dieses Stück ein wenig an die mongolischen Musiker von HOSOO und ihre Pferdegeigen erinnert. Auch bei HOSOO ist die Natur der primäre Impulsgeber für die Musik...

„Baer“ hingegen ist voller Melancholie, das Cello mitunter kaum noch von einer Geige zu unterscheiden. Aber es fällt schwer, hier einzelne Stücke aus dem Gesamtwerk herauszunehmen, denn man hört aus einem solchen Album keine einzelnen Stücke. „Saman“ hört man von Anfang bis Ende durch, man spielt nicht ein bestimmtes Stück an. Eine solche Herangehensweise ist in unserer Zeit natürlich immer ein Wagnis und ein kommerzieller Suizid, aber das dürfte eine Künstlerin mit ernsten Ambitionen kaum stören. Und so bleibt mir nur, allen Freunden der musikalischen Naturmalerei dieses Album wärmstens zu empfehlen. „Saman“ ist ein tiefgründiges und bewegendes Werk, das Zeit fordert, aber den Hörer dann auch entsprechend belohnt.

Gemastert wurde das Album übrigens von keinem geringeren als DENIS BLACKHAM, der wohl bis in alle Ewigkeit als Hausproduzent von WORLD SERPENT in Erinnerung bleiben wird. [Thomas L]

Evadidos (Spain):

Ha llegado el verano, con sus verbenas y su hedonismo al sol, ¿verdad? Pues nada de eso, aquí les vengo yo con todo lo contrario. Y no se quejen, que el tiempo en la calle tampoco está como para despelotarse y ponerse a rodar anuncios de cerveza. El caso es que esta chica de la foto, la que les ha hecho girar la cabeza noventa grados, es la islandesa Hildur Guðnadóttir (y pocas cosas me gustan más, por cierto, que copiapegar palabras en las que aparezca la bonita letra eth islandesa). Hildur es una chelista de formación clásica conocida, sobre todo, por tocar con sus compatriotas múm, aunque también ha colaborado con otros ilustres como Jóhann Jóhannsson, Pan Sonic, Hauschka, The Knife o Throbbing Gristle. Ahora acaba de editar su cuarto álbum en solitario, Saman, una sucesión de piezas contemplativas y melancólicas que sugieren desolados paisajes, exteriores o interiores: el título significa Juntos y alude a la combinación del chelo con la voz de Hildur, que va apareciendo en varias ocasiones a lo largo del viaje sonoro. Soy consciente de que a algunos les puede exasperar tanta lentitud, y de que a otros tal vez se les antoje demasiado bonito el conjunto, pero a mí me cautiva y me recompone la mente esta música en la que resuenan ecos de folclore nórdico y música antigua. Si buscan un refugio del verano, fresco y sombrío, aquí lo tienen en una cómoda playlist de doce vídeos… [Carlos Benito]

VITAL (Netherlands):

Hildur Guðnadóttir is one of those stable artists on Touch, and obviously you know this Icelandic cello player, who also uses her voice. 'Saman' means 'together' and that's about her using both instruments. Not always at the same time, as the cello seems to be the main instrument. I think I wouldn't mind if she would use her voice a bit more. She plays the cello beautifully, but perhaps after a while you know what it sounds like. Guðnadóttir plays the instrument in a traditional way - a lover of classical music would as easily recognize this instrument. What is gone, or at least pushed to a background, is the use of a looper device. It's there; it's used but kept to a strict minimum. It marks time, sometimes. But by and large it's the cello solo that plays here. Once her voice comes in, high, the interaction between cello and voice is great. Very spacious, angelic, but also sounding a more intense. Whereas the cello solo pieces sound nice, the true tension appears when both are used. I would strongly recommend an album in which she would explore both on a more equal level. Don't get me wrong: this is a great album, but not entirely fulfilling my expectations, I guess. [FdeW]

hhv (Germany):

Stille Einkehr: Nachdem es auf Hildur Gudnadottirs vorletztem Album »Leyfdu Ljósinu« zum Teil zu heftigen Klangmassierungen gekommen war, die die isländische Cellistin bloß mit ihrem Instrument und ihrer Stimme – unter Zuhilfenahme eines Delays – erzeugt hatte, wirkt »Saman« wie ein bewusstes Kontrastprogramm. Statt eines langgedehnten Brockens gibt es diesmal eine Reihe kürzerer Stücke, in denen Gesang und Cello in beinahe roher Form präsentiert werden. Gudnadottir geht es auf »Saman« (»zusammen«) in erster Linie um das Miteinander der beiden Instrumente. Das musikalische Vokabular erscheint deutlich schlichter, volksliedhafter, so als säße jemand in der (einigermaßen nachhallenden) Stube und singe im Familienkreis – selbst wenn auch die eine oder andere Spur bei den Aufnahmen übereinander gelegt wurde und sich in einer Nummer ein Kontrabass hinzugesellt. Doch der Raum wird nie mit Schwingungen vollgestellt, vielmehr schwingt der Raum als solcher mit, gibt den Resonanzen reichlich Gelegenheit, als gestalterisches Element zum Einsatz zu kommen. Mit Ausnahme der isländischen Hymne »Heyr Himnasmidur« stammen sämtliche Stücke von Gudnadottir selbst. So klar und aufgeräumt wie hier klang sie als Solokünstlerin noch nie. [Tim Caspar Boehme]

Signo360 (Spain):

Hildur Gudnaðóttir (Islandia, 1982) es una violonchelista, cantante y compositora quien, fiel al estilo colaborativo de los artistas del siglo XXI, ha participado con bandas de perfil indie que van desde el pop electrónico hasta la experimentación contemporánea como Múm, Angel, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Pan Sonic y Skúli Sverrison; con este último fue parte del proyecto Sería (2006), que ganó en Islandia el premio a mejor álbum del año, y con quien vuelve a trabajar en este disco.

El 30 de junio se publicó Saman, su cuarta producción como solista, después de Mount A (2006), Without Sinking (2009) y Leyfðu Ljósinu (2011), todos los discos publicados con Touch. En islandés «saman» significa «juntos». La propuesta del disco es reunir los dos instrumentos con los que Gudnaðóttir se comunica artísticamente: la voz y el violonchelo. Se trata de armonizar la articulación de sonidos que van formando significados –palabras– y la pulsación de las cuerdas que esculpen el viento con ondas sonoras.

La parte vocal se ubica en lo poético, es decir, en la palabra que va más allá del sentido y despliega información sonora, la voz como canto del ser humano en la naturaleza. De ahí que se incluya uno de los cantos nacionales de Islandia, “Heyr Himnasmiður”, poema escrito por Kolbeinn Tumason en su lecho de muerte, hacia el año 1208. El texto es anterior incluso a la Edda menor, de Snorri Sturlson, una de las fuentes principales de la mitología nórdica; lo cual menciono para dimensionar la fuerza histórica del verbo, la tradición del lenguaje islandés y su musicalidad hoy, 806 años después, con toda la intensidad de un sonido que viene de siglos atrás.

Paréntesis: Es común que los músicos islandeses recurran a cantos antiguos, es una forma de mantenerlos vigentes, es un modo de pensar en presente sus raíces (históricas, mitológicas y artísticas). Solo por mencionar algunos casos, Sigur Rós recuperó un texto sobre los cuervos de Odín en Raven’s Odin Magic, y junto a Steindór Andersen grabaron un disco de poemas épicos, Rímur (nombre con que se conocen este tipo de textos).

El espectro sonoro de Saman va desde un tono íntimo y personal, hasta un complejo mapa de matices y colores que pasan de lo ambiental a lo atmosférico, del pasaje oscuro al paisaje casi épico. Así como el sueño en el que caemos es una reminiscencia de nuestros antepasados que dormían en las ramas de los árboles y temían caer porque eso representaba la muerte, la música de Hildur tiene la facultad de despertar nuestra memoria genética y hacernos recordar las noches previas al descubrimiento del fuego.

Saman es, para mí, un viaje intenso a través de estados emotivos que parecen recaer en la naturaleza: la lejanía de los barcos que se pierden entre la niebla, la soledad en un camino de montañas, la aparición del hogar como un refugio de sol en la tormenta, el silencio que flota detrás de cada pieza como una sombra de lo que solo se dice con la memoria, y la resonancia de un espejo en el que el tiempo, al fin, puede mirar su propio cuerpo. [Moisés Villaseñor]

Ondarock (Italy):

In islandese, la parola saman significa insieme, e stando alle note che accompagnano l'album in questione, si riferisce a un elemento non poi così nuovo per Hildur Guðnadóttir. Il duello-unisono tra i suoi limpidi e paradisiaci vocalizzi e le oscure tessiture del suo violoncello si era infatti già mostrato in tutta la sua capacità suggestiva in quel piccolo capolavoro dato alle stampe un paio di anni fa. Ma “Saman” è, nelle parole della sua autrice, un album che parla in primis di risonanza: un concetto teorico, per certi versi accademico, da studiare nel dettaglio con un metodo scientifico e meticoloso. Tutto il contrario dell'approccio a cui la discepola dei Múm ci ha abituato nei cinque anni - tanto è trascorso dal primo “Without Sinking” - del suo percorso solista.

E la differenza, sin dal primo ascolto, traspare inesorabile. “Saman” è un disco dall'eleganza e dalla classe sopraffina, un disco dalla bellezza decadente, oscura, sinistra. Ma è anche un disco studiato al millimetro, calcolato in ogni sua nota. Un disco di singoli componimenti che, a differenza di quanto avveniva in passato, non si riscoprono momenti distinti di un'unica sinfonia, ma si consumano all'interno del loro piccolo mondo. Un disco che mette volutamente la tecnica e la ricerca davanti alla suggestione. E perdendo quest'ultima in dose cospicua, perde anche la gran parte del fascino unico e personalissimo che le precedenti prove di questa lungimirante artista, tutte collocabili a livelli diversi del grado di eccellenza, avevano puntualmente sfoggiato.

Bastano e avanzano i sette minuti del biglietto da visita di “Strokur” per capire il significato di queste parole: mai il violoncello era sembrato così intento a dialogare unicamente con sé stesso, alla ricerca dell'eco perfetta, della dilatazione più ampia possibile, così lontano da qualsiasi sfera emotiva. Nella più melancolica “Rennur Upp” cambiano i suoni, più languidi, e la prospettiva, ma non l'attitudine all'auto-contemplazione. In “Í Hring” quest'ultima arriva addirittura a farsi alienazione pura, avvinghiandosi sui suoi flussi, in una sorta di morsa suicida fatta di dissonanze e note basse. E non basta qualche frammento d'umanità nascosto sotto un impenetrabile strato di ghiaccio a cambiare i connotati di “Bær” e “Til Baka”.

Qualche traccia della sensibilità del passato affiora invece con maggior convinzione nella romantica “Birting”, nell'inquieta “Torrek”, nella bella liturgia di “Heyr Himnasmiður” e soprattutto in “Heima”, parentesi anomala dove la musicista si reinventa cantautrice pizzicando delicatamente le corde del suo violoncello. Il breve canto funebre di “Frá” e il crescendo rapido di “Líður” stanno però a dimostrare che la voce non può, da sola, sostituire il cuore. Non si può certo dire che Hildur non raggiunga per l'ennesima volta il suo scopo, dando sfoggio probabilmente ancor più che in passato di un'impressionante padronanza della materia musicale. Ma alla complessità dell'accademia ci sentiamo di preferire, di gran lunga, la "semplicità" del trasmettere emozioni. [Matteo Meda]

Brainwashed (USA):

The Touch label's extensive roster only has a few artists who would be considered classical in the traditional sense, and Hildur Gudnadottir is one of those. With instrumentation consisting only of her cello and her voice on some of these pieces, and guest musician Skuli Sverrisson on bass for one of them, Saman is a stripped down affair that excels at what it intends to do, but does not step out of that comfort zone either.

The best pieces on this album are the ones in which Hildur pairs her voice with the cello, rather than just focusing on the instrument only. "Heyr Himnasmiður," for example, sparingly uses both the strings and her voice, but the dramatic shifts in dynamic from near silence to pure, rich tone is brilliant. This excellent use of silence to magnify the sound appears again on "Líður," immediately leading off with multi-tracked vocals and cello, but returning into silence throughout the composition.

"Heima," featuring Skuli on bass, benefits from the inclusion of the additional instrumentation, with plucked strings and additional reverb (the cello playing being resonated through two grand pianos) adding a bit more complexity. The piece is soft, but a bit too busy to be peaceful, which keeps it interesting and helps it to stand out. The final composition, "Þoka," is the odd one out, with a heavier sound and buzzy, less clean sounding strings, but is all the more memorable for that difference.

Shifting dynamics work extremely well on "Strokur" too, with forceful and deliberate swells of cello that go from loud to quiet and back, with high and low register notes that encompass the full sonic spectrum. Hildur maintains a slow pace on "Birting," filling out the mix with some subtle layering and looping, for the most part the only overt processing used on this album. On "Í hring," however, she pairs the low register drone that a cello can do so well with lighter, more melodic sounds a bit further in the mix. The dynamic does not shift drastically, but remains light and spacious throughout.

Saman is an album rich with Hildur Gudnadottir's subtle cello and hushed voice, that delicately lingers for the 40 minute duration. It accomplishes this very well, but I wish there would have been a few more experimental or challenging moments that would stand out. The pieces where her voice is prominent, or a less traditional approach is used in the performance are the ones that are the most memorable. The other moments are pleasant, but are not quite as effectively captivating. [Creaig Dunton]

The New Noise (Italy):

Quarto album in studio – sempre per la britannica Touch – per la graziosa e brava violoncellista islandese Hildur Guðnadóttir. Basta con l’inglese, questa volta la musicista decide di espellere definitivamente le proprie emozioni attraverso la lingua madre, come testimoniano i titoli delle dodici brevi tracce, nonché il titolo, “Saman”, che tradotto significa insieme.

Crepuscolare e infarcito di chiaroscuri (in verità più scuri che chiari), Saman forse racchiude e vuole raccontare una storia d’amore finita male, cercando disperatamente di scrostarsela di dosso. Per certi versi il violoncello suonato in questa maniera potrebbe ricordare alcuni passaggi inquieti stile Haxan Cloak del primo disco omonimo o Hermann Kopp, anche se in questi casi è il violino a farla da padrone. Per questo motivo a tratti suona tremendamente noir e lugubre (“Í Hring”), mettendo ansia e terrore, ma sono le struggenti parti vocali – “Heima” (casa) su tutte – a riportarlo sui binari più consoni, vale a dire lacrimevoli. Poesie leopardiane, cartoline sbiadite e nebbiose (“Þoka”, ovverosia nebbia), paesaggi autunnali, pioggia battente che somiglia a lacrime color sangue, marce foglie di salici piangenti che si staccano dalle pareti interne del cuore come fossero pezzetti di racconti tristi da seppellire, e petali di rose rosse che, trasportate dai sospiri, si adagiano dolcemente nel profondo dell’animo per lì rimanere in eterno.

Non ci va molto a capirlo, ci sono malinconia e tristezza da vendere in questo disco. È commovente e profondo, insomma, quei tipici suoni caldi che da queste parti etichettiamo con la solita frase: l’inquieto che quieta. [Massimiliano Mercurio]

Tiny Mix Tapes (USA):

Hildur Guðnadóttir is from Iceland, a country I understand to be populated only by musicians. She is classically trained and highly accomplished, having composed scores for plays and films, winning the Icelandic Theater Award in 2011 for scoring King Lear. In addition to collaborating with an abundance of groups — Pan Sonic, Throbbing Gristle, múm — she was also a member of polyphonic psych-folk group Stórsveit Nix Noltes, whose record Orkideur Hawai won me over after a friend randomly picked it up from a record store years ago.

Saman is Hildur’s fourth solo record, and like her collaborations and past material, it’s modest but crafted with care. It’s a delicate record of balances and obfuscations, consisting of sparse instrumentals composed of arrangements for cello and voice, the pairing of which form the dyad that represents togetherness — thus, Saman, which is Icelandic for “together.” The album subsists wholly on Hildur’s clarity of form, an insular composing style that neglects context and choreographs an unwitnessed journey with myriad shifts in mood and setting throughout each piece. But it’s not really a sad or happy album. It’s more transportive, malleable, adaptable. Some songs possess a romantic simplicity with little to no adornment, like “Heima,” which meanders from melancholy to peaceful in a strummed swing; others are lacquered with reverb to create a flowing drone, like the angelic/psychedelic choir of “Fra.” It’s an album that rewards, rather than demands, your attention. [Adam Devlin]

Skug (Austria):

Eine Frau und ihr Cello, Kapitel 17, Überschrift: »Der Tag der Grashalme«. Es entsteht tatsächlich eine eher gegenständliche Stimmung, wenn man sich in diese meditative CD versenkt. Man wähnt sich in einem sehr langsamen Film oder einem entsprechend episch angelegten Roman, der irgendwann im Mittelalter spielt, könnte aber auch ein futuristisches Mittelalter sein, nach dem Untergang aller Zivilisation. Die Wiesen sind verwildert, der Wind weht über kniehohes Gras, in der Ferne hört man Frauen lachen, man weiß aber nicht recht, sind es Frauen oder Elfen oder gar bloß Geister. Wer jemals Andrej Rubljow von Andrej Tarkowskij gesehen hat: die Stelle mit dem haidnischen Frühlingsfest passt hier perfekt, als wär’s ein nachgereichter Soundtrack. Wir hören fast ausschließlich ein karges, wehmütiges Cello, zu dem sich fallweise der Gesang von Frau Gudnadottir gesellt, mal nymphenhaft-ätherisch, mal lose an gregorianische Gesänge angelehnt, mal mit zaghaftem Pop-Appeal. Das ist so unspektakulär wie schön, so wohlgefällig wie konsequent, auf jeden Fall eine Klasse für sich. [Curt Cuisine]

ATTN. (UK):

I watched a documentary on quantum physics yesterday. One particularly baffling aspect is that of “entanglement”, which says that the behaviour of two particles can be intrinsically linked in spite of any vast distance between them. I find myself returning to this as I listen to Guðnadóttir’s cello and voice navigating harmonic space; they are strong and independent when taken in isolation, and yet beautifully aware of how their angles and lines intersect. It’s like a mirror reflection liberated into free will and yet loyal to its original purpose, tracing the movements of the original while forever deviating. There is a triangle of attention and response between the cello, the voice and I, and during the points where Saman falls to its most delicate hush, I like to think that the instruments are responding to my presence as much as they respond to eachother.

What has always allured me is Guðnadóttir’s relationship with orientation and axis. Her movements – pendulum swoops, lingers of gravity and momentum in equilibrium – appear to be tethered to an invisible point in the audio space, around which she glides and swings as though tracing a circle circumference. On “Í hring”, I find myself rolling upon wave crests and turning green with seasickness; a toy of the ocean, tumbling between azure palms. On “Líður”, I stand precariously balanced on one leg upon a piano note in octave, as pillows of choral harmony hold me upright on either side. I am buoyed into balance by clouds of human breath, or perhaps something more divine – an energy smiling in the empty acoustic space. The absence and echo in each of these pieces is vast, and if I listen hard enough I can hear the dust catching the light of a stained glass window, or the twirl of a sunlight shaft as it showers through a hole in a factory ceiling. Guðnadóttir seems to rouse emptiness into life again, her cello a dawn chorus for walls and floors that have long between without warmth and touch. [Jack Chuter]

STINT (France):

Hildur a encore frappé. La sirène islandaise sort ici son quatrième album pour Touch. "saman" signifie "ensemble" en islandais et ce n'est pas anodin. On constate rapidement que le nombre de morceaux chantés (ou susurrés) augmente par rapport à ses précédentes productions. En exagérant, je dirais presque que c'est de la pop. Le mélange de cette jolie voix haut perchée et le timbre mélancolique de son instrument favori qu'est le violoncelle est un véritable travail d'orfèvre. La chaleur des couleurs, la puissance du bois, la dextérité, la finesse des sens et un certain sens de la solitude sont les principales caractéristiques de sa musique. Ne cherchez pas la virtuosité chez Hildur, elle préfère créer des climats et peser de tout son poids sur l'archet quand il passe sur l'épaisse corde de Sol. La musique de Hildur Guðnadóttir est une musique profonde, située aux confins du classique, de l'expérimental, de la pop new age, de la new wave et qui prend soin de shunter tout signe de modernité si l'on omet quelques boucles de cordes ici ou là ("ihring") pour tenter l'esprit à s'éparpiller et vagabonder. Intemporelle, je pense que sa musique l'est, surtout quand je l'écoute à la bougie ou dans un fog épais et automnal. Si l'envie d'un voyage au grand Nord vous tente, je suis certain que cet esprit là saura vous emporter. Favori.

Cyclic Defrost (Australia):

This, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s fourth album on Touch, sees the cellist blending her layered instrumentation with delicately evocative vocals. Aptly named Saman, which according to Touch, means ‘together’, the union of the instruments is a successful one, with each part resting on thoughtful progressions and restrained delivery to produce a cohesive, but perhaps slightly underdeveloped, album.

The timbre of the solo cello lends itself to the introspective and even sombre emotions at play here, accentuated by the spacious, not quite sparse, arrangement. While Saman does not rely on studio trickery or grandiose virtuosity to propel the experience, it is nonetheless a cinematic production that both captures the intimacy of the deft enunciation of the cello, while at the same creating the august yet ethereal soundstage in which the often uneasy compositions reside.

Saman opens with the long bowed notes of ‘Strokur’, effectively introducing the emotional landscape of the album. It is an invitation to listen closely, with the rich harmonics of the instrument demanding the ear’s attention. There is no promise of an easy experience though, with this track’s contrasting dynamics and plaintive melodies being underpinned by a finely developed structural arrangement, highlighting it as one of the album’s finest pieces.

Acoustic drones envelop a fleeting vocal melody, and the second track, Frá, is gone as quickly as it came. This brevity is a feature of this album, with six of the 12 tracks clocking in at under three minutes. Frá is served well by this concise approach, but elsewhere tracks are left like snippets of an overheard conversation, leaving me quite wisftul for how the composition could have developed.

Elsewhere the dreamy arpeggiations of ‘Heima’ are accentuated by Hildur’s breathy, somewhat quivering vocals, combining to great effect. The arrangement shapes to great effect the sense of unease afforded by a sublimely structured chromatic vocal melody that is in equal parts light and dark. The shade is certainly stronger in the following track, though – ‘Í Hring’ utilises a descending ostinato to develop the tension to almost breaking point, and its release into the opening of ‘Rennur upp’ is surely the thematic crescendo of the album.

Saman’s sub 40 min playing length does not allow the listening experience to outstay its welcome, however its succinctness tends to accentuate the brevity of some of the tracks contained therein. There is a lack of resolution present throughout, in which the silence between the pieces is filled with the slight unease of things not yet finished. Nonetheless Saman is an intriguing album that rewards the listener by being as engaging intellectually as it is emotionally, and marks another fine release from Touch and Hildur Guðnadóttir. [Oliver Keefe]

SWQW (France):

"Sound itself is nothing but movement." (Hildur Guðnadóttir)

Mouvements qui s’élancent, se rétractent, assiègent et pénètrent le corps. L’islandaise façonne les oscillations de sa matière sonore, ses boucles et ses tourbillons, sa grâce. Les résonances viscérales de son violoncelle sont de celles qui, inlassablement, cisaillent doucement la chair.

Avec Mount A, Without Sinking et Leyfðu Ljósinu (tous parus chez Touch), Hildur Guðnadóttir a offert des albums splendides, dont on ne remonte jamais vraiment la surface. Ses collaborations foisonnantes nous amènent à la retrouver aux côtés d’Hauschka sur le merveilleux Pan Tone, ou sur certains d’albums tels que Theory Of Machines, de Ben Frost, ou The Short Night, de BJ Nilsen, pour ne citer qu’eux.

Il y a deux ans de cela, Hildur Guðnadóttir nous avait laissé avec une pièce live se démarquant quelque peu de ses albums précédent, mais dont le poids s’est progressivement révélé capital dans sa discographie. Penchant du côté du drone, avec un final à la tension extrême, Leyfðu Ljósinu est un disque profondément intime, qui avait notamment accordé une place toute particulière au chant de la jeune femme.

Cette voix fragile qui se perdait dans les boucles pour en devenir quasiment indistincte, on la retrouve sur Saman, cette fois beaucoup plus présente. Une trajectoire qu’a voulu donner la violoncelliste à ce nouvel opus, toute entière contenue dans le titre de l’album, signifiant "ensemble" en islandais.

Silences, dialogues éthérés. L’une dans l’autre, l’une avec l’autre, les voix du violoncelle et d’Hildur Guðnadóttir prennent ainsi la mesure de l’espace, y déroulant un rythme lent fait à la fois d’attente et de calme, d’inquiétude et de retenue. Dans cette manière d’être au monde, la clarté et le dépouillement du chant se revêtent d’une part de sacré. En y regardant de plus près, on remarquera d’ailleurs que Heyr Himnasmiður n’est autre que la reprise d’un hymne liturgique islandais.

Sur Líður, où le piano est également présent, l’enchevêtrement des voix, des cordes et des silences porte des nuances de timbres et de hauteurs qui donnent tout leur sens à la recherche d’Hildur Guðnadóttir. A l’image de l’artwork, c’est ici un jeu de miroirs où les reflets s’échangent. On lui retrouve ce vacillement si caractéristique, semblable au mouvement d’une balançoire élargissant insensiblement un territoire d’ombre et de lumière pris entre le sol et le ciel.

On regrettera toutefois qu’elle n’aille pas totalement au bout de sa démarche, puisque sa voix s’absente d’un certain nombre de titres. Ajoutons à cela la présence de certains titres dispensables, qui n’en font pas l’album le plus captivant de sa discographie. L’occasion quand même, de se replonger dans un univers absolument somptueux. [Aurélie S.]

The Quietus (UK):

Icelandic cellist, Hildur Gudnadottir's latest album, Saman, also somehow bears both lush and sparse qualities, but her sound is coloured a deep, rich russet compared to Jacaszek's growing greenery. About two-thirds of her album's 12 short pieces are reverent yet optimistic dances delivered on just one or two layers of solo cello, where additional elements would risk disguising the outstanding natural beauty they pose. On four of the tracks, however, Gudnadottir tentatively introduces an angelic voice to harmonise with the bowed textures to arrive at an irresistible interzone of Pärt-like hymn and European folk song.

Gudnadottir's more wayward explorations are often found when invited to join the deceptively named duo, Angel, formed by ex Pan Sonic Ilpo Väisänen and Schneider™'s Dirk Dresselhaus. Recently released by Editions Mego, Terra Null., their seventh album, displays the vivid, natural results of her plucks and bows as they thread through the electronic arcs and tunnels of Väisänen and Dresselhaus' oscillators. Apparently bearing a narrative based around notions on the "cultural darwinism" of colonialism, the results sound literally like a battle between electricity and nature, whose communion is perhaps found in the electrical synaptic activity of our brains. [Russell Cuzner]

Soundofmusic (Sweden):

Den isländska cellisten Hildur Gudnadottir kommer till festivalen Sound of Stockholm i början av november. Hon är dessutom aktuell med två nya cd-skivor, soloskivan Saman och Terra Null där hon gästar gruppen Angel.

På Saman är det den klassiskt skolade cellisten som träder fram, precis som på skivorna Without Sinking från 2009 och Leyfdu Ljosinu från 2012. Men Gudnadottir har en förmåga att förflytta de melankoliska celloklangerna i sidled. Kanske handlar det framförallt om att hennes attityd tycks skilja sig från den man ofta finner hos den komponerade klassiska musiken. Bakgrunden i populärmusiken, såsom medverkan i grupper och spel med artister som Múm, Johann Johannsson, Throbbing Gristle, ligger där och påverkar, även om den inte alltid är så tydlig. Vilket är bra! Min känsla är att hon tar in olika influenser, bearbetar dem och skapar något nytt och eget. I den bemärkelsen är hon det goda exemplet på hur den tidigare så hypade postklassiska scenen fortfarande har ett liv. Då, när det begav sig på 00-talet, byggdes ju dessvärre många luftslott, även om det fanns en hel del bra också, såsom exempelvis Murcofs ljudliga katedraler.

Saman är en mycket vacker skiva. Melankolin är finstämd och Hildur Gudnadottir använder rösten i betydligt större utsträckning än tidigare. Ofta tillför den en sakral känsla till musiken som jag gillar. Hon är en fantastisk cellist, men glider sällan ut i tekniska konststycken, snarare är hon tydlig och distinkt. Även om dronen ofta ligger nära till hands. Fram träder tolv ganska korta kompositioner som delvis går mot olika håll även om en stämning håller samman. På låtarna som lutar mot en mer ”klassisk” känsla är klangerna mer utdragna, stråken dra fram dem stämningsfullt, medan ”poplåtarna” är mer vertikala, såsom ”Rennur upp” och ”Heima”. Det är kortare klanger, ofta frambringade med fingerspel. På ”Heima” spelar dessutom Skúli Sverrison bas. [Magnus Nygren]



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Hildur Gudnadottir - Saman [LP]





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