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CD Feature/ Gydja: "Umbilicus Maris"

img  Tobias

Led by its self-description of “Night Ocean Drones”, the Belgian Mystery Sea Label has always sailed an endless void filled with waters of shimmering blue intensity caught in a continuum of mysterious connotations and allusions. It was therefore only a matter of time, until it allowed mysticsim and occultism into its harbour, even though the divide between “Silo 11” by Canada’s Cherry Beach project (the Mystery Sea release preceeding this one) and “umbilicus maris” is even greater than the distance between their respective countries - which is saying quite a bit as Gydja’s Abby Helasdottir resides in Wellington, New Zealand.

Which is proving those wrong who claim that the albums on Daniel Crokaert’s label do sound somewhat alike. True, even Helasdottir’s ambiances share a common language with some of the other artists on his roster: Especially the final “Cold water flowing forth” consists of those recognisably organic and immensely deep virtual field recordings of moors filled with echoing noises, reverbed cracklings and myriads of sighs, whispers and breathings while the opener “Beyond the Earth’s edge” is an oblivious dronescape floating like a river through skies of tinkling bells and hovering tones. But right from the start, Helasdottir puts her own stamp on the pieces, including overblown sheppard’s flutes and abruptly cut piano keys into the mix and allowing more concrete elements to open up unusual associative spaces. Especially in the two long pieces at the core of “umbilicus maris”, she high-pressures her atmospheres into almost unbearably dense aural traumata of suspenseful tectonics and threatening choir clusters, before letting the tension slowly fizzle out and enter spaces of caressing calmness. The latter is a distinct feature of her style, which is characterised by free forms, a continous tide and ebb of gradually intensifying and relaxing compositional friction surfaces as well as a contrast between manipulated and unprocessed recordings. The other constitutional technique is creating a floating cohesion by forcing disentangled elements to drift around each other like leaves in a pond, touching each other occasionaly in obscure embraces. It is an intense trip, full of seemingly contradictory emotions, which even strays into warm harmonies and major chord territory to catch a few rays of the sun, before diving down into the maelstrom again.

Gydja is an old Norse word for priestess and indeed some passages on the album have a strong ritualistic feel to them. Helasdottir has however refrained from becoming overly sacral and never referred to the typical signature sounds of the Dark Ambient scene. Her occultism is not as much inspired by demons or evil spirits, but by the humanity which still hides behind the voices of nature and the Gaja-force omnipresent in the valleys and woods around us. As such it is also part of  the giant Night Drone Ocean of preceeding releases which the Mytery Sea label continues to explore.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Gydja
Homepage: Gydja at MySpace
Homepage: Mystery Sea Records

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