Sound Impression: Þjóðlög/Folk Songs by Hugar

Following their soundtrack to the documentary film The Vasulka Effect, Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson redirect the focus of their Hugar project back to its Nordic roots with a new EP that features instrumental renditions of songs curated from the Íslenzk thjóðlög, a volume of nearly 1,000 pages of music and historical commentary that is considered the “bible” of Icelandic folk music. Entitled simply Þjóðlög/Folk Songs, the album features five songs which have no doubt been performed countless times in more traditional settings but now find themselves distilled into an elegiac essence of pure melody and atmosphere set free of any temporal context.

Featured here is “Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu” (Vatnsenda-Rosa’s verses) against the backdrop of a montage of nostalgic footage which in its own way echoes the melancholy of the missing lyrics taken from the heartbreaking words of 19th century poet Rósa Gudmundsdóttir. Most often featuring vocals as the centerpiece, with Björk’s 1994 performance among the best known, Hugar’s version led by a sparse piano line shows how much emotive power resides in the melody alone.

These are very old Icelandic songs that were part of an oral tradition, luckily saved for the nation by having been written down in the late 19th century. We feel that it is very important to keep these songs alive. They reflect our long, dark, raw winters with their themes of loss, grief and darkness. Our aim is to represent this sonically and these are some of our favorites from the collection.

Hugar

aaaÞjóðlög/Folk Songs is now available as a digital release from XXIM Records (pronounced “twenty-one M”), a new imprint launched by Sony Masterworks which focuses on “innovative, progressive instrumental music” and also features Hugar’s compatriot Eydís Evensen on its growing roster. Also chosen for the EP were “Fagurt er í fjörðum” (it is beautiful in the fjords), “Blástjarnan þótt skarti skær” (the blue and brightly shining star), “Nú vil ég enn í nafni þínu” (now again in your graceful name), and “Grafskrift” (epitaph).

Links: Download/Streaming | XXIM Records | Hugar