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På skive



Icelandic cellist-singer-songwriter Gyða Valtýsdóttir (read as Gyda Valtysdottir), known as a founding member of the experimental band Múm, began to compose the genre-fluid songs of her fourth solo album «Ox» in the solitary depths of Brooklyn winter, where Valtýsdóttir found herself retreating to the studio as a way to maintain her sanity in the lockdown. She completed these songs with her frequent collaborator, electronic musician and composer Úlfur Hansson, in the bright Icelandic summer. These songs celebrate the embodiment of both the darkness and the light that exists within us, and Valtýsdóttir wishes to lead the listener to enter a «realm which lies right between the veils of our reality and the cosmic fluff of infinity» look for meaning in the world that exist both within us and around us.

«Ox» is titled after the opening song, «Alphabet», as most alphabets begin with the letter aleph, originating from the Egyptian hieroglyph which depicts an ox’s head. This song cements the hypnotic, otherworldly atmosphere of the album and its tender, warm intimacy, and, according to Valtýsdóttir, is about  «reading between the lines, connecting the dots of the sensory waves that make our realities». Valtýsdóttir’s dreamy-celestial vocal delivery and her soaring cello playing intensify the lush atmosphere and the expansive arrangements that feature pianist Kjartan Sveinsson (known from Sigur Rós), Lithuanian kanklės player Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė, Belgian guitarist Bert Cools (who played with Jurgelevičiūtė in Merope), American flutist Alex Sopp and the programming and field recordings of Hansson.

The songs and instrumental pieces touch aspects of fragile intimacy and express the transformative power of art. Valtýsdóttir chants a series of sensual suggestions to her lover on «Black Swan», concluding with «my tongue is sharpened / & my love is as strong as ever / so thank you / dark swan / lover». She follows this love chant with the mystical «In Corde» that adapts transcends a hymn by 12th-century mystic nun Hildegard Von Bingen into a dreamscape. She returns to mystical images in another seductive song, «Miracle». where she sings: «In little death lies a notion of knowing / a god in us – our bodies are showing…». The image of the seductive tongue, depicted on the cover, repeats again in Valtýsdóttir’s incantations in «Heavenly Piracy» where she chants: «Holiness i kick your ass / i am fucking conscientious / my love for the truth is highly contagious / burns like frankincense…», ornamented with a hypnotic soundscape programmed from the sound of a volcano. «Tell It» distills Valtýsdóttir’s love messages to «Tell it to Her! / You are beautiful». The last song «Amaying» enjoys poetic images of nature that dance between inner and outer realms of consciousness and existence as an open field of emotional explorations.

Sublime and beautiful.

Eyal Hareuveni

Gyða Valtýsdóttir (v, c, p), Kjartan Sveinsson (p), Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė (kanklės); Bert Cools (g, synth), Mats Bauer (g.loops), Shahzad Ismaily (b), Alex Sopp (fl, piccolo), Jófríður Ákadóttir (cl), Doug Wieselman (cl), Aaron Roche (bassoon), Úlfur Hansson (magnetic harp), Julian Sartorius (dr, rocks), Úlfur Hansson (prog), Fransesco Fabris (volcano field rec)


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