[releases] afe116lcd
gydja: helchemy

  Artist: Gydja
Title: Helchemy
Format: CD-R ltd. to 100 copies in pro-printed cardboard sleeve
Tracks: 2
Playing time: 50:45
Release date: October 2008
File under: Dark Ambient / Experimental

Track List:

1.  The Spirit of the Earth With Venom Intoxicate  25:06

2.  The Black Sea, the Black Lune, the Black Soll  25:35



Abby Helasdottir has been creating music since 1995 under the name Gydja (an Old Norse word for "priestess"). Initially, the aim of the project was to create music that could be used for magickal and shamanic purposes.

Some of the earliest ideas involved using field recordings, and basing whole pieces on these sounds in a largely unprocessed way. This is still a concern of Gydja, but with more emphasis now being placed on abstracting these sounds so that, whilst they retain a sense of their original source, they become something else entirely.

The current style of Gydja differs from the initial intentions of the project, with music of both a mundane and magickal nature being created. And whilst the music is usually linear and could be defined as a soundscape, it is also not necessarily always dark ambient in style, embracing electro-acoustic and experimental techniques.

Works designed specifically for magickal use sit alongside explorations of sound for sound's sake; and in a third tier, some exploration of sound contain magickal themes, even if there is no practical magickal application intended.

Among her releases we remember "Liber Babalon" (2001), "Cold Seed" (2002), "Rivers…" (2002), "Corpus Callosum" (Kolorform Records, 2004 - a collaboration between Gydja and Aidan Baker), "Ma-mo Rbad Gtong" (Chmafu Records, 2005 - a collaboration with Austrian musician Marufura Fufunjiru), "Umbilicus Maris" (Mystery Sea, 2007) and "Machina Mundi" (Gears of Sand, 2008).

In addition to her work as Gydja, Abby is also involved with the performance art project Torture By Roses ("Sebastian/Salome" CD available from Mediatrix Publishing), and the militant industrial formation Clear Stream Temple ("XVI" CD out on Cold Spring Records).

Consisting of two long tracks and clocking at about fifty minutes, "Helchemy" is Gydja's latest full-lenght work at the time of writing, and we're happiest to release it as part of the Afe catalogue.

The album title is a portmanteau combining the name of Hela, Germanic goddess of the dead, and the art of alchemy. As such, it considers the way in which imagery associated with alchemy can be related to Hela, particularly the motif of a venomous black toad that is found in many alchemical tracts.

Beginning with synthesized soft atmospheres, the opening "The Spirit of the Earth With Venom Intoxicate" gains an aquatic feeling in its first movement. Pads are paired with ring-modulated effects and then the music evolves into a more mysterious cauldron filled with ritual percussions and bells. A gentle melody - resembling a plucked guitar or another string instrument - emerges for a while in the middle section before disappearing in synth bubbles. A flute theme is briefly introduced and then reappears later as the track is constantly transformed until reaching its final stage.

"The Black Sea, the Black Lune, the Black Soll" starts in a simple percussive way with various bell-like sounds layed on synth flows and more unclear background microevents. Slightly distorted elements are added to the mix and the music seems to get aggressive for a while, before returning to a more reassuring mood. Water samples, field-recordings and other sounds resembling animal activities guide the listener through another tranformational process. Music gets darken as percussions return and more sound effects create a disquieting atmosphere. A human voice suddendly appear to introduce the last movement, a more minimal ending filled with morbid synth lines and assorted percussive sounds.

As an album concept, "Helchemy" is something that the author has explored for several years, creating a version of the release based on cassette experiments in the late nineties. Nothing of this version appears in the current incarnation, but the themes which first initiated the idea are there.

"Helchemy" comes in a beautiful and inspired artwork created by Gydja herself.


"...Gydja is a one-woman project from Abby Helasdottir. An Icelandic name hailing from New Zealand, that can only mean extreme isolationism and that is exactly what fits the release - albeit with loads of ritual aspects... The two tracks which are both around 25 minutes bear the illustrous titles "The Spirit of the Earth With Venom Intoxicate" and "The Black Sea, the Black Lune, the Black Soll". Hearing these titles you already know there will be poetic, magickal and ritualistic sounds. And that turns out to be quite fitting: ambient soundscapes with sudden moments of harmony, disharmonic atonal miniatures and meditative structures for inner peace. This album is a perfect auditive guidance for rituals of witchcraft or magick..."
Gothronic [more]

"...As we've already said, this musician from New Zeland deals with dark ambient from the music to the layout and if you're looking for some supplementary hints I'd say this doesn't belong to the category of "I'll scare the shit out of you" dark-ambient releases, it's an heave trip for sure but it's a psychedelic crepuscular trip that presents some really melodic interventions that change the whole atmosphere of the two long tracks here included... The interesting game of heavy passages and melancholic quasi-sacral movements is mainteined also in the second track of this work, here you've more outspoken keyboards sounds that twist the shape of the scenario but the style is really similar to the music of the opening suite. I know you may not agree with me but I think Gydja's music fits really well with definitions such as "ecstatic", yes, "dark and esthetic" and considering she's far from those mono-drone recordings where you feel like bored to death after a few minutes, I'm sure you'll appreciate the way she maintained her composition dynamical by moving different elements and atmospheres during the length of every track."
Chain D.L.K. [more]

"...Category pigeon-holes abound, but for music like this, the label "dark ambient" doesn't really tell much of the story. This sounds more like an undersea journey, with Gydja's already established fondness for field recordings being woven very subtly into the mix of deep shifting drones and sparse, tolling beats. These works are also much more structured in their development than the term drone might usually suggest. There are two long pieces, running to a little under 51 minutes which held my attention very well throughout. The full range of these soundscapes is especially vivid on large speakers, but I enjoyed the disc on a ghettoblaster in my kitchen too! There's a nice balance between the electronics, which might have a tendency towards coldness, with an enveloping warmth. I was struck at one point by what, to my ears, was a bit like a meeting of Isao Tomita's synthesizer performances of Debussy with deep sea mammal sonar signals. All in all, a rewarding listen whether you're into the "magick" side of things or not!"
Foxy Digitalis [more]

"...I recommend this fashioning of art to all of the blood and to those who desire the blood of the Ancients to streak through their veins illuminating ones being to shine with the darkest light. The formation of notes, opening the gateways of liberations beyond and within the earth, all who enjoy the reality behind the image and the word, should experience this offering of wisdom. The packaging is otherworldly and depicts the formula in tantalizing rich tapestries of becoming. These keys are designed by the pythoness, within her divine artistry she has sacralized the essence of her art in visual form, the music and the doorway which exists, shall be entered..."
Heathen Harvest [more]

"..."Helchemy" is made up of two tracks both clocking in at just over 25 minutes. I'll admit to not being a huge fan of super long songs, but occasionally a good producer can make it work. The first track proves to be an example of this. "The Spirit of the Earth With Venom Intoxicate" is both a mouth full and a solid ambient track. It has a firm drone-y base, which ever so slowly plods and rumbles along as the song grows and morphs as it progresses. The drones aren't particularly notable themselves, but Gydja does a good job of adding enough supplementary elements to make this an interesting listen. There are some nice flute-like melodies, some distant banging/rhythmic noises to provide movement, some analog-esque synths (think This Morn'…vaguely) which you wouldn't think would fit (but oddly do), and even some interesting water/liquid-esque sloshing sounds which is extremely suitable for the "alchemy" and ritual aspect, which this album seems to be going for..."
Connexion Bizarre [more]