The fourteenth volume in Vin Du Select Qualitite’s series of solo acoustic guitar records comes courtesy of Icelandic composer and musician Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, and stays mostly within the limits stipulated by the series title. Field recordings of water feature on first track ‘Night’, with long time-stretched harmonies creating a warm haze through which a simple, direct melody cuts. The piece is calm and quiet, but unseen creatures clamour and shriek in the murky distance. In a way, album closer ‘Drift’ is like the opening track’s twin, again using water-based field recordings and sustained shimmers to lulling effect.
In between these two outliers, the rest of the album takes a more traditional approach to solo acoustic guitar. The title of ‘Current’ is effectively evoked by a quintuple-time ostinato, with interweaving patterns bringing subtle, complex shades of harmony that encourage drift. Other pieces are simpler and more plaintive, song-like in their approach to melody. The slow hanging chords of ‘Star’ create a sense of time stretched and elongated, with pinprick harmonics creating a sense of tension. ‘Atlantic’ drives steadily and relentlessly towards dawn, which arrives suddenly at the end of the piece with a crashing wave.
I could probably listen to a hundred records in the style of “Solo Acoustic Vol. 14” and find them all too sentimental and unadventurous, yet there’s something deeply affecting about this particular album, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that something is. In Sarah Louise’s instalment of the series a landscape is vividly evoked by her virtuoso playing, but it’s in the silences and the fading notes that Haraldsdóttir’s landscape quietly makes its presence felt, hovering around the edges of perception. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the landscape quietly withdraws, and that what we perceive is the aftersound of its sounding, as real and as close as a memory. Either way, it’s great work.