TO:70LP – Hildur Gudnadottir “Without Sinking”

Double Vinyl LP – 13 tracks
Mastered by Denis Blackham, cut by Jason @ Transition.
Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft.

Track listing:

Side A
1. Elevation
2. Overcast
3. Erupting Light
4. Circular

Side B
1. Ascent
2. Opaque
3. Aether
4. Whiten

Side C
1. Into Warmer Air
2. Unveiled
3. Baer

Side D
1. Heyr Himnasmidur
2. Iridescence

Composed and recorded by Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir in Berlin and Reykjavík. Hildur played cello, zither, processors and voice. Additional recordings by Skúli Sverrisson, bass and processors on all tracks except track 7, 10, 11 and 12. Jóhann Jóhannsson, organs and processors on tracks 2, 3, 9 and 13. Guðni Franzson, clarinet and bass clarinet on tracks 7 and 10.

Cello made by David Wiebe in 1991. Cello nr 49.

This release contains 3 extra tracks in addition to the ten on the CD version of Without Sinking

11. Baer was recorded in Berlin in 2009… Hildur plays Halldorophone and cello.
12. Heyr himna smiður is an Icelandic hymn.The lyrics are written in 1208 by Kolbeinn Tumason. Music written over 700 years later by Thorkell Sigurbjörnsson, arranged and recorded by Hildur Gudnadottir. Performed by Hildur Gudnadottir (vocals, piano) and Skuli Sverrisson (bass). Recorded in the Civitella Ranieri castle in Umbria, Italy.
13. Iridescence is co-mixed by BJNilsen, also featuring Skuli Sverrisson (bass) and Johann Johannsson (organ).


Forced Exposure (USA):

Hildur Gudnadottir has such a way with the cello, able to create such utterly moving music that is filled with nuance and texture but that is also so deeply emotional. Hailing from Iceland, Gudnadottir’s resume includes collaborations and partnerships with the likes of Pan Sonic, Mum, Sigur Ros, Angel, BJ Nilsen, etc. It’s so nice to get to hear her take center stage, carefully crafting a sound that is about as moody and beautiful as music really gets. Perfect for those eternal gray days we are faced with so often in San Francisco, this is a record we put on when we just want to get lost in the fog and haze. There is very nice and subtle processing throughout the album as well, and here and there Gudnadottir tries her hand at the zither with stunning results. Johann Johansson adds organ on a few tracks as well, and fans of HIS best work as well as music by folks like Sylvain Chauveau, Philip Glass, Michael Cashmore, Joan Jeanrenaud and Colleen should for sure check this out. Truly elegant and intensely resonant. And thus highly recommended!

Brainwashed (USA):

Originally issued on CD in 2009 and now reissued on double vinyl with additional tracks, Without Sinking is the second album from this Icelandic cellist (who has worked with the likes of mum and the Hafler Trio). Hildur’s subtly treated cello and zither compositions are only enriched by the vinyl format, adding an extra layer of warmth and emotion to her already powerful works.

Unlike a lot of other artists who work with a singular instrument as a sound source, Hildur uses only the most subtle effects and treatments of her cello, often using only layering to build the sound up to an intensity that never loses its sonic color, but sounds like far more than is actually there. The slowly building sounds of “Elevation” transition from a simple cello passage to a paring of bassy low-end drone and sad, howling high end bits that could be an entire orchestra of musicians.

At times, the rhythmic throb of traditional cello playing evolves into a heavy, film score like intensity, such as on “Erupting Light” and “Opaque.” On these two pieces the rhythmic underpinning is matched with higher register passages, leading to a dynamic, rich composition. It is during these moments that Without Sinking is most song-like.

During other times, the pieces are less about compositional structure and more about indulgence in sound. “Circular,” for example, has a frozen, monolithic quality to the cello that is offset by twinkling zither notes, but for the most part resembles the breathing of a massive, prehistoric creature. The sparse, outstretched notes of “Whiten” are over a bed of arid ambience that is more open, but also sad in comparison to most of the other pieces. “Unveiled” moves at a snail’s pace, but using a greater variety of sounds other than just cello, which takes a backseat to bass and electronic instrumentation.

This newer double LP edition includes three additional tracks that were not included on the 2009 CD issue. “Baer” feels like the natural follow-up to “Unveiled,” but with an added emphasis on cello above the otherwise gauzy tonal clouds. “Iridescence” also takes on a similarly slow pace, but with a greater emphasis on bassy tones and gentle ambience. The most different is “Heyr Himnasmidur,” which drops the cello to make way for piano, bass, and Gudnadottir’s delicate, beautiful voice. While it feels a bit odd in context with the rest of the album, it works in its own unique way.

The careful use of effects and digital processing keep a certain natural beauty to Hildur’s playing, but put just enough of an edge on it to set it apart from other cellists. The additional songs are not just filler, but help to further flesh out an already well developed album.

Stereophile (Sweden):