Compilations / Mixes
Sounds of Iceland
Reykjavík resident Hafdís Bjarnadóttir takes the listener on a forty-two-minute round trip of Iceland on this latest installment in Gruenrekorder's Field Recording Series. It's about as pure a representation of the label's series project as could be imagined, given that the recordings, which Bjarnadóttir gathered between 2009 and 2013, feature nature sounds exclusively. That said, the fact that Sounds of Iceland excludes human-derived sounds comes as a little bit of a surprise, given Bjarnadóttir's beginnings. After picking up the electric guitar at the age of twelve, she started playing in bands and exploring rock, folk, and jazz styles. Over time, however, her attention gravitated to composition, a move that eventually saw her earn a Master's degree in 2009 from the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Her interests aren't limited to field recordings, by the way, as evidenced by a CV that includes idiosyncratic creations such as an orchestral work based on knitting instructions and an ensemble piece based on financial graphs and charts related to Iceland's 2008 banking crisis.
The album's Iceland journey begins in the southern part of the island in the early spring before moving westward and continuing in a clockwise direction. Interestingly, spatial movements are matched to seasonal change as the return to the geographical starting point coincides with winter's retreat. In some respects, the content of Bjarnadóttir's recording is consistent with what one might expect of a field recordings-based portrait of Iceland: subdued sections dotted with bird chatter, wind, and the murmur of the Atlantic Ocean and the Greenland and Norwegian Seas punctuated by occasional eruptions of geysers and hot springs. But the trip also includes cave explorations, waterfalls, and visits to nature reserves, the Látrabjarg bird cliff, and Galtarviti lighthouse, with all of it woven together into a constantly stimulating travelogue.Two things about the recording stand out above all else: first of all, even though Sounds of Iceland is marked by dramatic contrasts in dynamics, sounds spanning the full range of the spectrum are present; secondly, while geysers and hot springs form a key part of the content, a rich variety of other sounds appears, too, and one comes away from the recording humbly reminded of how much activity is present in even the most depopulated geographical region. Finally, helpful track-by-track details allow the listener to follow the movements on a map as the recording unfolds, and the smartly packaged release is enhanced by the inclusion of a twelve-page booklet whose colour photography of the Icelandic landscape brings the project to life all by itself.