Iceland's Hildur Gudnadottir Puts the Cello in Front

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Hildur Gudnadottir
  • Hildur Gudnadottir
Cellist Hildur Gudnadottir has been working with the Icelandic band Mum since the late 90s, both live and on record—and she’ll be performing with them tonight at the Logan Square Auditorium—but she’s never been a full-fledged member. Which is probably for the best, because she’s got so much else going on.

While there are experimental aspects to Mum’s music, it dwells more or less in the realm of pop, which Gudnadottir’s other stuff most certainly doesn’t. She’s worked with staunch experimentalists Stilluppsteypa and B.J. Nilsen, she’s a member of the hard-charging Storsveit Nix Noltes, who serve up a raucous take on Balkan music, and she’s also part of Angel, a riveting drone project with Ilpo Vaisanen (of the Finnish duo Pan Sonic) and Germany’s Dirk Dresselhaus (aka Schneider TM). She started out as a guest in Angel too, but as the group’s latest and best album, Kalmukia (Editions Mego, 2008), makes clear, she’s now an integral part of its thick, churning sound, which at its most extreme veers toward Sunn O)))-like heaviness but also makes room for quieter, more serene drones where her elegant, slow-moving arco lines are front and center. More recently Angel collaborated with the electroacoustic collective Strings of Consciousness for an eponymous album on Important Records.

But Gudnadottir’s best work is captured on her new solo album, the brooding, sorrowful Without Sinking (Touch), where she utilizes the rich, natural resonance of her instrument as a matter of course—drone is not necessarily the thing here. These pieces are dense with a dark melodicism that speaks to her classical training, with patient elaboration and development distinguishing most of the pieces. Skulli Sverrisson adds subtle bass tones and electronics to all but one track, and Johan Johansson adds organ and processing to a few others, but nothing gets in the way of the gorgeous cello sounds. On a few pieces Gudnadottir plays zither—including a piece where her father, Gudni Franzson, adds some lovely clarinet lines.

Gudnadottir will kick off tonight’s concert with a solo set.

photo: Jon Wozencroft

Today’s playlist:

DJ Olive, Triage (Room 40)
Stefan Pasborg, Triplepoint (ILK)
Yosuke Yamashita Trio, Mokujiki (RCA Victor)
Various Artists, Eu Não Sou Cachorro, Não (Universal, Brazil)
Mats Gustafsson, The Vilnius Explosion (No Business)

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