Review: Hildur Guðnadóttir – Mount A

This is actually the first solo work by Hildur Guðnadóttir, re-mastered and re-released on Touch Music. And it really is a solo work – Hildur has said that she has tried to avoid the involvement of other people as much as possible, which is probably part of the reason Mount A feels so personal and insightful. Almost intrusive.

Much of the album consists of these thick lashings of cello, working best when the sound is strung out into a tempo-free gush of drones, inflected with subtle organic creaks that provide the record with gorgeous sense of warmth. I find myself reminded of Colleen (French modern composer) at points, for the way it feels so dry and aged, left to mature and showing early signs of weathering and deterioration. But where Colleen’s music works as much with silence and empty space as it does with sound itself, Hildur’s music prefers to arrive in thick, unified swarms.

Occasionally the album dabbles in what feels like more rigid, melodic forms – the rising cello scales of “Shadowed” and the swaying melody of “Floods” – and personally I find this less interesting than the album’s more tempo-less pieces. It’s here that you’re reminded that the cello is primarily a classical instrument rather than an inseparable extension of Hildur herself, which unfortunately swipes the sense of intimacy right out from under your nose.

But the closing 10 minutes of “You” is the definite high point for me. It’s largely locked into the blissful happiness of a single major chord, arriving as a long-awaited resolve after the gloomy minor tonality of the other ten tracks. It’s doesn’t particularly go anywhere, choosing to sink back into a state of calm, as if finally letting go of the grim thoughts that streak the rest of the album with sadness and ascending to a better place.