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Review by Katharina Hauptmann.
Usually this section of Iceland Review Online is exclusively assigned to the musical oeuvre of Icelandic artists, but once in a while one has to make an exception.
In this case the exception is Bristolian musician Alec Snook alias Zoon van snooK or ZvS.
Zoon van snooK’s album was inspired, conceived and partly recorded in Iceland and gives us an interesting and beautiful musical version of ZvS’s journey and reflects the way he experienced the country.
The Bridge Between Life And Death was released on June 10 on Lo Recordings (UK) and Kimi Records (IS); genre-wise it ranges from Oddtronic/Snolk Music to melodic Electronica.
Van snooK has had a thing for Iceland and its music for quite a while and the songs on this album “are for, about and inspired by Iceland.”
The Bridge Between Life And Death is snooK’s second album and is based on a set of field recordings he took while traveling in Iceland in 2009: “I was able to collect recordings from the centre, port and outskirts of Reykjavik and the surrounding South Western area. From national parks to canyons; from hot springs to glaciers; from folk songs to folklore... As well as the principal subject, all the glitch rhythms on the album are created from the unintentional background noise or static created whilst capturing it,” explains ZvS.
During his stay in Iceland, van snooK began several collaborations with a bunch of great Icelandic artists such as múm, Amiina, Benni Hemm Hemm and Sin Fang that all left their marks on this remarkable album.
The Bridge Between Life And Death feels kind of orchestral due to the melodic layers and the use of beautiful instrumental sets. For instance, ‘Tjörnin Side’ has lively and playful pizzicato strings and glockenspiel, ‘Snorri’s Saga’ comes up with brass.
All of the songs start out quite slow, introspective and quiet and then build up gently and stretch out over the course of the track.
This doesn’t mean the album is boring or repetitive at all, just gentle, melodic and contemplative without losing its energy or mellowness. Outstanding in tempo and mood is certainly the track ‘The Verge of Winter’, enchanting with vivid xylophones, haunting piano and strings, it floats on the background sounds of howling police sirens.
Another favorite of mine is the rather melancholic closing song ‘The Gaits’ featuring Sin Fang where one can hear the characteristic bells of Reykjavík’s landmark church Hallgrímskirkja ringing in the background. Personally, I really like this song because it is literally close to home as I hear exactly those church bells every day at home in Reykjavík as I live very close to the church.
By the way, the album’s title refers to a bridge in Kópavogur, a town just outside Reykjavík. The locals call it the bridge between life and death because it has a nursing home on one side and a cemetery on the other. “The album is themed around birth and death and each song is a chapter in the overall story, taking in sub-plots inspired by Greek/Nordic epic poetry; biblical tales; spirits; outlaws; and unique aspects of the terrain and indigenous animals,” says the artist.
The cherry on top is the beautiful cover art by Icelandic multi-talent Halldór Ragnarsson.
A very interesting, enjoyable and contemplative album with lush strings and haunting piano creating a beautiful musical image of Iceland.
Katharina Hauptmann – firstname.lastname@example.org