‘Sprungur’ is the sophomore record from Icelandic theremin musician Hekla. At times frosty and consumed by darkness, and always feeling like a haunted listen, Sprungur is a spellbinding record that expands on its predecessor, befitting of the Fall and then the impending descent into Winter. Along with its subpolar climate, Hekla captures the atmosphere of Iceland. The record was written and recorded at her home studio in Reykjavik while she was on maternity leave.
Hekla’s theremin slowly ghosts into being like an apparition, hovering, wobbling with vibrato, sliding downwards, and then falling away. The spectral sound of the theremin continues to echo long after her voice has subsided, as if it were playing on for an absent audience in an empty room. The haunting timbre gives birth to an incredibly eerie sound, one steeped in mystery and the dregs of memory, while synths swirl around in ever-deepening textural pools. The theremin is magical, entrancing, and Hekla is a virtuoso; so much so that the instrument becomes an extension of herself. On this record, she’s able to enhance the scope of its sound and realise new possibilities.
The music has the feel of a heavy, lulling enchantment, a Sleeping Beauty lying in repose for years on end, trapped in a castle at the edge of a forest. But Sprungur is a quiet, insidious album, and one of elegance and composure. Other sounds float around in its murky waters: phantoms of piano and her own ethereal voice, which dances in and out, appearing fleetingly from the shadows and dissipating just as quickly. These other sounds show that Hekla is keen to extend and expand her musical fable, and while the theremin will grab all the headlines, piano, strings, synths, and other elements are just as important in the creation of a balanced album.
In her hands, the instrument covers multiple feelings and emotions. Her dynamic range is impressive. too; she covers a lot of ground while managing to maintain a stable and chilly atmosphere which wouldn’t feel out of place on a cold and mist-coated October morning. Like a dark fairy tale, her vocal lulls the listener, perhaps telling them a story of her own. In fact, one of Sprungur’s tracks is an arrangement of a traditional Icelandic lullaby, which used to scare Hekla when she was little. Her lyrics “Í jöklinum hljóða dauðadjúpar sprungur” translate into English as, “In the glacier rumbles deadly deep cracks”, and that’s where Sprungur’s title comes from, exploring the imagery of great mythical beasts inhabiting the earth and causing deep fissures from their rumbling movements’. There is something of the fantastical in her music, which echoes out into the long night. Her vocal begins the enchantment, and the theremin repeats the melody, finishing it. Sprungur is out now via Phantom Limb.