Here is another classic production by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, the Icelandic aural conjurer I last reviewed (on Classical Music on the Web) in relation to his production on Steindór Andersen's groundbreaking Rímur disc. Here he is again in collaboration with film director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's, after their previous triumph on Children of Nature. This score has much in common with the previous one, offering a lot to lovers of "Holy Minimalism" (a term I use for convenience but through gritted teeth), experimental/reflective folk based music (e.g. Alan Stivell), superior soundtracks (ECM/Karaindrou, Heat, Blade Runner) and even Bach. The emphasis this time is on slightly softer sounds, with more acoustic guitar in evidence, but the melancholic, wistful atmosphere is still all pervading.
The packaging includes both an "in memoriam" to a recently departed and short lived friend and a quote from Hildegard von Bingen, which are both in keeping with the mood of the music. The titles of the individual pieces may mean more when related directly to the film but range from the (willingly?) bland/opaque, Colours, Memory, to the expressive but still mystery laden (Schiller in China, The Black Dog and the Scottish Play - the latter an obvious reference to Macbeth though in what context I'm not sure without seeing the film). Journey to the Underworld is probably the most overtly emotive track, with Szymon Kuran's intense violin sound at its centre. The final masterstroke is the inclusion of tracks by avant electro-folk group Sigur Rós, who have collaborated with both Hilmarsson and Steindór Andersen before and here unleash two linked, (electric) guitar and percussion driven laments, one with vocals and one instrumental, which might seem slightly incongruous but will also strike you as some of the most heartrending "rock" music ever recorded - imagine Joy Division's New Dawn Fades in an Icelandic falsetto and you may be quite close. The closing instrumental Death Announcements and Funerals is more of the same, a plaintive organ introduction leading to some cavernous guitar work - at once powerful and subtle - more Glenn Branca than Ozzy Osbourne for sure! If you enjoy this, their debut album Ágætis Byrjun, more so than more recent releases, contains much more of the same but also some milder moments.
Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson remains a great talent, in his choice of collaborations and his music - if you have yet to make his acquaintance this is as good a starter as any, especially since it may also lead you into the special sound world of Sigur Rós. Highly recommended.