One of the most convincing debuts of the year - The Line of Best Fit
A Berlin-residing Icelander, Hekla’s sparse, delicate, fractal music exists within these two worlds: dark and magical as Iceland’s permanight folklore; and (though beatless) as deeply sonic and intense as Berlin’s electronic scene. A long-term scholar of solo theremin, Hekla (shortened from her own name Hekla Magnúsdóttir) uses her instrument as an otherworldly and highly evocative Siren-call. A spectral, wailing, howling, lamenting yearning second-voice that underpins a soft vocal delivery, as if her studio had been haunted with a chorus of ghostly backing singers.
While a handful of reference points share a similar ground to Á - Colleen’s interplay of voice and instrumentation; the richly immersive filmscore work of sadly passed fellow Icelander Jóhann Jóhannsson’s; “grandmother of theremin” Clara Rockmore’s close relationship with such a singular instrument; Julia Holter’s intelligent and classically-aligned songwriting - Hekla’s music still exists singularly. A one-off talent, emerging from no particular scene, ascribing to no particular rules.
As a creative tool, the theremin - bizarre, unique, rarely heard - can be expressive, intuitive and highly adaptable. In Hekla’s hands, her instrument covers an enormous range, from skittering birdsong of high frequency chirrups and chirps, to grinding, tectonic sub-bass. We are given the throbbing, apocalyptic dread of ‘Muddle’ and the baroque beauty of traditional Icelandic hymn ‘Heyr Himna Smi∂ur’ in sequential tracks on the album’s a-side. Appropriately, she also writes that the album title - Á - is similarly multifaceted in her native Icelandic: “a river is an á and also it means ouch like when you hurt yourself, and also when you put something on top of something you put it á (on) something.”