Hildur Gudnadóttir is a gifted cellist with an impressive history of collaborations that includes work with Pan Sonic, Throbbing Gristle, Johann Johannsson, Skúli Sverrisson and Ben Frost among many others, as well as being a member of Iceland's notable Kitchen Motors collective. She first came to our attention on Pan Sonic's epic 'Katodivaihe' album from a couple of years back, her intense, blackened cello adding another dimension to Vainio and Väisänen's icy tundras. "Without Sinking" (her second solo album and first for the Touch label) is, however, by far the most cohesive and engrossing release of her career to date.
It's not often that sales notes offer much by way of an insight into the real thought process or inspiration behind an album, but Gudnadóttir's description of many hours spent on flights around the world looking at clouds really does encapsulate the atmosphere and semi-opaque wonder of these recordings. "I wanted to have open space for single notes and let them breath, like single clouds in a clear sky. As a contrast I also wanted create denser and heavier compositions which were more thundercloud like. I like the way clouds form, how many tiny droplets can form such dense forms and then slowly evaporate into thin string-like forms."
The sound Gudnadóttir's cello makes paints these mysterious landscapes with an almost mystical purity, opening track "Elevation", for example, manages to outline an increasingly intense, almost mournful picture with seemingly simple layering techniques and barely perceptible processes submerged by the pregnant sound of Gudnadóttir's hugely evocative instrument. But the album also includes contributions from a number of guests - most notably Johann Johannsson, Skúli Sverrisson and even Hildur's father Guðni Franzson, with tracks like "Aether" introducing Harp and wind instruments with a gentle economy that's so fragile and simple it's just nothing short of heart-stopping. The album closes with the dense "Unveiled", an ominous drone undulation steered by those cautious, towering strings and barely perceptible found sounds. It's the space between the notes, the restraint and expectation, that packs the biggest emotional punch on this incredibly moving recording, never allowing those 'cinematic' qualities to get in the way of the genuine dread and catharsis resting at the core of this utterly magnificent album. Amazing music. (@ boomkat.com)