[reviews] afe116lcd
gydja: helchemy

foxy digitalis []
webzine, usa, june 2009

Before one even sees the name of the artist, her sleeve design, rich in alchemical allusions, points aptly to the music inside. The cover, like the sounds, was created by Abby Helasdottir, an artist based in Wellington, New Zealand. In the past she has worked under the name Clear Stream Temple and has used the name Gydja (meaning priestess in old Norse language) since the mid-'90s.

Taking these reference points further, the album title, "Helchemy", is an amalgam of alchemy with the name Hela, Germanic goddess of the dead.

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! (8/10)

[John Cavanagh]