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hildur gudnadottir - Mount A
The album that preceded last year's outstanding Without Sinking album, Mount A was originally billed under the Lost In Hildurness moniker and now gets a remastered reissue under Hildur Gudnadottir's real name. Despite the often expansive sound, all instruments are played by Hildur herself, including cello, viola, piano, vibraphone, zither and gamelan. Acting as a one-woman orchestra, this talented Icelandic musician and composer manages to craft something that's at once big and intimate. At the time of Mount A's initial release it would have been likely for Gudnadottir to be predominantly thought of as a serial collaborator and guest musician rather than a solo artist in her own right. Her list of credits is impressive to say the least, and includes a touring post with Animal Collective, plus recordings by Pan Sonic, Valgeir Sigurdsson, BJ Nilsen and Stilluppsteypa, Nico Muhly, Múm and more recently The Knife and Wildbirds & Peacedrums. On Mount A, perhaps due to the solo setting, repetition and loop-like structures dominate many of the tracks. This gives rise to some beautiful melodic hooks, especially during the jagged cellos of 'Floods' and the weary viola glissandos of 'Casting'. While bowed strings play the largest part on the album, around halfway plucked sounds take centre-stage: 'Self' is an absorbing piece based around a zither, building up through spindling layers into a panoramic arrangement bolstered by wave-like, lapping drone tones and slightly creepy micro-tuned intervals. Putting vibraphone to good use, 'In Gray' and the tense, febrile 'Earbraces' sound spacious and filmic while ten-minute closing piece 'You' lets in a more optimistic mood, once again calling upon plucked sounds for a starting point. There's a freedom and lightness to this final entry that counteracts some of the intensity that characterised much of what came before.