rauður - 'Semilunar' (album)
We have a couple of long outstanding album reviews to bring you this week (apologies again to 'The Sideways'), but we wanted to write briefly about the debut album from Icelandic 'rauður', because this whilst we do love our 'Indie Pop' comfort food, her new album 'Semilunar' takes us into a different dimension completely, and the reality if that it'll probably take months to dissect and comprehend completely.
So behind 'rauður' is the musician and producer Auður Viðarsdóttir, who hasn't released music as a solo performer until now, but was once part of an Icelandic indie band called Nóra, who I openly admit I hadn't heard of, but I've included the links to them at the bottom of this page - try by trying their single called 'Bringsmalaskotta', it's well worth checking out. Anyway slightly experimental electronic music has always been a passion of 'Viðarsdóttir', who had a Roland SH-201 in her garage as a youngster, and 'Semilunar' is the result of all her experimentations, and years of experience playing with Nóra too I guess.
I'll be honest, this has pretty much blown me away. Opening with 'Flugdreki', unwordly vocal harmonies seamlessly fuse with the synths, and an extraordinary pattern, or maybe non pattern of beats emerges, with 'rauður's' vocals flickering between darkness and light within almost a millisecond. And that's why this music just works so effectively, because whenever you feel this music is heading down a dark cul-de-sac, it just emerges with a positive energy with glorious bursts of euphoria, ethereal melodies and shimmering vocals and beats - 'Dönsum', which flows on from 'Flugdreki is a perfect example. 'Sjálfshjálp' opens with powerful resonating beats that disturb the natural balance, it is bleak and the vocals have a forceful uncomfortable sound and texture, as if 'rauður' never wants us to be at ease for too long.
I really do like the lyrics in 'Lost / Love' (they're split between Icelandic / English on the album), but then the electronica again disturbs the peace, and it seems to reflect the conflict between the aspirational and the realities of life, with beats blurring the journey to contentment. 'Himinbjörg' has a lovely wayward melody, whilst the darkness is apparent again in Bjögun, with driving intense noise, whilst 'Semilunar' heads further into an alternate direction. And then suddenly it all opens up into the utterly gorgeous 'We Will All Feel Better One Day And / Or Die', which seems to sum up the albums intent in one song title, accompanied by the most beautiful vocal melody, and a subtle accompaniments of breathless synth heartbeats, it feels desperately sad but uplifting and life affirming too - I can't remember an album with builds to quite such a definitive conclusion.
Occasionally I admit the swirling electronic based intensity of 'Semilunar' all got too much at first listen, and I never claim to have any knowledge of electronica and the technical aspects of the album and songwriting, so I guess I just to write about the effect of the music, rather than describing how she achieves what she does. But to me this is a pretty startling album, incredibly clever in its construction, with tracks such as 'Flugdreki' and 'Lost / Love' a great example of 'rauður's' ability to merge both darkness and light into one, and 'We Will All Feel Better One Day And / Or Die' a track that is beautiful in it's own right. but feels in its perfect place at the conclusion of the album. It is really well worth listening to if you have the chance.