Deutsche Grammophon Records, 2012
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/28/2012
Here’s an all star combination unlike anything else you’ll hear. Hilary Hahn, one of the world’s greatest violinists and German composer extraordinaire Hauschka join forces with producer Valgeir Sigurosson to produce Silfra. This disc was fleshed out in Iceland (Silfra is a geographic region not far from Reykjavik), and the pair specifically chose Iceland for its ability to contribute to the flourishing imaginary and often breathtaking arrangements found on Silfra.
A collection of songs that vary from wild to calm, playful to serious, this album finds the duo unraveling a wide range of emotions and soundscapes. Amazingly, prior to entering the studio, not a single note here was penned beforehand. The entire ensemble was improvised on the spot, though the pair is well versed with one another’s work. And considering the unparalleled skill each musician brings to the table, there’s no surprise how accomplished the resulting work is.
Though the first few tracks move by quick with a quick blast of fluttering piano melodies and a classical feel stemming from the strings, later on they get experimental with the 12 minute “Godot,” where Hauschka reportedly set aluminum shells of tea lights on the piano strings. In “Bounce Bounce,” they bounce a rubber ball against the piano frame to create new sounds, and though they take on plenty of universally accessible ways of creating melodies, these unorthodox ways to create different tones really do make this shine in an entirely different light (rumor has it ping pong balls and tiny motors were also injected into the piano).
This is a disc that is so well done, so finely crafted, it often doesn’t even sound human made. An experience designed for the mature listener, this is a journey into aching beauty, soaring instrumentation and moody yet triumphant ebbs of grace. This reaffirms my belief that music emanating from Iceland is always worth a listen.