HEKLA

Ghostly sounds from buzzy Ber­lin via the fjords of Ice­land.

Prog - - Limelight -

“I used to de­scribe my mu­sic as min­i­mal sci-fi but I think it’s be­come big­ger than that,” muses the softly spo­ken Hekla Mag­nús­dót­tir. “It can be re­ally dark and heavy but also re­ally bright and light.”

The ex­per­i­men­tal Ice­landic mu­si­cian and vo­cal­ist is all about op­po­sites. She swapped her cello for a theremin 10 years ago and more re­cently has ex­changed the dark­ness of her na­tive coun­try for Ber­lin’s vi­brant un­der­ground mu­sic scene, where she fre­quently pops up on the live cir­cuit.

“There’s a limit of venues and peo­ple in Ice­land, so it’s a lot eas­ier do­ing things here [in Ber­lin],” says Mag­nús­dót­tir. “You’re more con­nected to the out­side world and I’ve been play­ing a lot more here. I re­ally like to im­pro­vise live so my mu­sic has def­i­nitely evolved a lot since I moved.”

Mag­nús­dót­tir’s evo­lu­tion via the no­to­ri­ously chal­leng­ing elec­tronic in­stru­ment be­gan when she joined a lo­cal Ice­landic surf band a few years ago. By her own ad­mis­sion, it wasn’t a se­ri­ous out­let, but she used the down­time to ex­per­i­ment and craft the un­usual sound that’s show­cased on her haunt­ing al­bum Á.

“It’s pro­nounced ‘ow’ and it’s a let­ter that means many dif­fer­ent things,” she says of the ti­tle. “It can be a river, lake or a sheep, and you can use it if you put some­thing on top of some­thing else. I thought [the am­bi­gu­ity] was very fit­ting.”

The 10-track al­bum was writ­ten and recorded around her son’s day­care – he’s now two years old – and, like the vol­cano Hekla is named af­ter, it’s beau­ti­ful yet pow­er­ful and oc­ca­sion­ally un­set­tling. De­spite her clas­si­cal train­ing, Mag­nús­dót­tir favours graph­i­cal no­ta­tions over more tra­di­tional meth­ods of scor­ing, pre­fer­ring to il­lus­trate the shapes she throws to cre­ate her un­earthly sounds. Her son has even been known to join in too!

“He’ll wave his arms around and have a lot of fun!” she says with a laugh. “But [the theremin] is a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to the cello: there are no par­tic­u­lar rules on how to play and there’s a to­tal free­dom in how you ap­proach it. I play through lots of ef­fects ped­als to try to take it to new places and I like to dis­cover new sounds. You can do so many to­tally dif­fer­ent things on it, and I just wanted to get these new sounds out that I found in­ter­est­ing.”

Given the evoca­tive na­ture of her mu­sic, it’s not too sur­pris­ing that film sound­tracks are a big in­spi­ra­tion to Mag­nús­dót­tir. When not lis­ten­ing to Amer­i­can theremin player Pamelia Stick­ney

(“Her al­bum Think­ing Out Loud is one of the freaki­est things I’ve heard,” Mag­nús­dót­tir ad­mits), she’s zon­ing in on spooky scores for It Fol­lows and the 1992 re­make of Bram Stoker’s Drac­ula. She also namechecks Tan­ger­ine Dream, John Car­pen­ter and Goblin among her in­flu­ences, and like her mu­si­cal he­roes, her sounds have also started to ap­pear in movies. Ear­lier this year, she was hon­oured when di­rec­tor Ber­trand Mandico used the song Arms in his dark fan­tasy The Wild Boys, and she says there are more indie col­lab­o­ra­tions on the hori­zon. We can’t wait to see what she does next… NRs

“THE THEREMIN IS A VERY DIF­FER­ENT EX­PE­RI­ENCE TO THE CELLO: THERE ARE NO PAR­TIC­U­LAR RULES ON HOW TO PLAY.”

SHAD­OWS AND LIGHT: HEKLA’S “UN­EARTHLY” SOUNDS ARE EN­CHANT­ING.

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