MYSTERY SEA 36 | Gydja
| [umbilicus maris]
satis procul ab hoc de quo praemisimus litore, contra occidentalem partem,
profundissima aquarum illa vorago est, quam usitato nomine maris umbilicum
vocamus. Quae bis in die fluctus absorbere et rursum evomere dicitur,
sicut per universa illa litora accedentibus ac recedentibus fluctibus
celeritate nimia fieri comprobatur.
Not very far from this shore of which we have spoken, towards the western
side, on which the ocean main lies open without end, is that very deep
abyss of waters which we call 'the navel of the sea'. It is said twice
a day to suck the waves into itself and spew them out again."
Diaconus (Historia gentis Langobardorum)
Gydja (old Norse word
for priestess) officiates since 1995, led by New Zealand muse Abby
Helasdottir, also active in design & performance art, creating
supernatural soundscapes with transforming potential.
Having contributed to various compilations, online projects, and rich
in some collaborations (including one with Aidan Baker "Corpus
Callosum", and another with Austrian musician Marunfura Fufunjiru
"Ma-mo Rbad Gtong"), Gydja has also under
its belt a series of self-released works ("Liber babalon",
"Cold Seed", "Rivers..." to name, but a few...)...
close to all are soaked with magical/shamanic connotations, obeying
to some peculiar inner laws, merging electro-acoustic & experimental
techniques, and formally often based on abstracted field-recordings...
On "umbilicus maris",
Gydja drags us along a quest for a lost mythic world
After a dazed drift in a foggy mangrove,
we reach an unmapped regio of concentric superimposing circles
& endless ripples
preparing us for a sheer descent into murky waters...
adorning the dive,
huge, drowned thousand years stones
seem to betray an ancient ceremony,
a passage through Time
to a supreme Essence...
Small lights flicker in the cold current,
and thoughts snake along the moss walls
whispering lunar tales...
immersed in this strange universe, we grow
in constant mutation
at the mercy of the waves
towards a better Self...
the Earth's Edge
02. The wave, with red stain running
04. A siren stood hymning upon each circle
05. Cold water flowing forth
VITAL WEEKLY 565|Frans
The old Norwegian word for Priestess
is Gydja, and it's also the name chosen by Abby
Helasdottir, who, despite her Icelandic name, is from New
Zealand. Working in design and performance, there is much music, which
has been self-released. Apparently the music is based on field recordings
which are merging with electro-acoustic and experimental techniques,
although I am a bit sure that it's mainly the use of computers here
that processes the field recordings. As this is on Mystery Sea, a
label with a well-defined genre of sub-aquatic music to release, this
is quite easily to place along the various releases that have been
greeted on this label. Deep sea and deep space, which might very well
be the same thing here. Large amount of reverb on objects dangling
in the wind. Long and slow decaying attacks on whatever obscured information.
It's good and solid music, but also a bit on the safe side. There
is nothing happening that we didn't hear before, not on Mystery Sea
or anywhere else. One for the true fans for the genre, and who likes
to explore a new name.
"Not very far from this shore
of which we have spoken, toward the western side, on which the ocean
main lies open without end, is that very deep abyss of waters which
we call "the navel of the sea". It is said twice a day to
suck the waves into itself and spew them out again." - Paulus Diaconus
With this premise behind Gydja's
Umbilicus Maris album you know to expect a lot of deep, oceanic,
spacious soundscapes which is exactly what you get. But the soundscapes
are so rich and textural (I have been listening on headphones) that
you are not sure whether you are under the water in a deep sea trench
or floating in space accompanied by etherial creatures. My favourite
piece on the album is "A Siren Stood Hymning Upon Each Circle"
where strange echoing vocals are used as instruments to create a huge
layered sound with endless scope. If you have heard Sadness of Things/Nurse
With Wound's "The Grave and the Infinite Name of Sadness"
you will have an idea what I am trying to describe. I think Gydja
has progressed a great deal with this album bringing many more textures
and even floating melodies into play with the ambient soundscapes. Definitely
one for listening to at night with headphones. It
is available in a limited run of 100 from Mystery Sea.
new arrivals #261
Another gorgeous release from Mystery Sea,
whose sonic focus is on "night-ocean drones", and more than
anything we've heard on MS, Umbilicus Maris by New
Zealand one woman drone outfit Gydja perfectly embodies
Umbilicus Maris is very oceanic, aquatic, even sub-aquatic.
The rhythm is tidal, a subtle pulse, a gradual swell, the sounds shift
and shimmer like light through water, and of the handful of Mystery
Sea releases we've heard, Umbilicus Maris is the loudest
and most active. That's in no way to infer that this is anything but
drifting blissy ambience. It most certainly is, but the sounds are not
lowercase. Not barely audible. Abby Helasdottir, the
sole soul behind Gydja, brings the sounds to the fore,
they are dark and mysterious, droning and drifting, but they are loud,
the listener can hear them, FEEL them, peer inside and around, can experience
the sound physically, get lost inside the sound. A pair of headphones
is all you need to get sucked under, floating weightless in a strange
sun dappled undersea world of sound. Field recordings (tides, oceans,
streams?) are mixed with performances, all processed into some otherworldly
soundscape, or seascape. Burbling, shimmering, glistening, glimmering,
everything slightly blurry, warped and warbled, multiple layers, shifting
and drifting, low end rumbles slowly drift to the surface, where strange
sonic skitters and burbles float on the surface, everything drenched
in echo and reverb, like some massive undersea cavern, lit only by a
single shaft of sunlight, the sounds of dripping water magnified into
swirls of sound, distant percussive pings, an ultra abstract undersea
dub. So completely warm and dreamlike, headphones like a diving bell,
eyes closed, no need to breathe, letting the sound wash over you, slowly
sinking to the bottom of some warm sonic sea. Absolutely gorgeous.
And like all Mystery Sea releases, LIMITED TO 100 COPIES, each disc
numbered, and gorgeously packaged in striking full color artwork.
MACHINE | Roger Batty
: 3 stars out of 5
Umbilicus Maris whisks
the listener off into a vast abounded citadel situated
on the deepest ocean floors, lit by fluorescents and sea bound aurora
borealis. This is fine ambient craft rippled with watery rhythmic touches
& subterranean choir voices to make vast meditative and mystically
soundworld to lose ones self in. Appearing on the always quality bound
Belgian ambient label Mystery Sea, this is less deep and more approachable
to non deep ambient fans, than some of the labels released disks. Often
wondering more towards defined musically moments, relying more on instrumental
textures than sample and manipulated sound textures. though it still
retains the air of picturesque sound waves and audio pictures. As already
mentioned, this does have a real feel of souring over a vast oceanic
city, slipping in through strange stone carved archways and
doorways. Moving from ornate stone carved building
to building, and room to room. Oddly some of the rooms remain full of
air, like the effects played out in James Cameron's "The Abyss".
Some of the rooms have water drips upwards too. This is the magical
air Umbilicus Maris paints in one mind. A soothing
and mystical trip that never becomes too new-agey, always having darker
hues here and there.
Led by its self-description of “Night Ocean Drones”,
the Belgian Mystery Sea Label has always sailed an endless void filled
with waters of shimmering blue intensity caught in a continuum of mysterious
connotations and allusions. It was therefore only a matter of time,
until it allowed mysticism and occultism into its harbour, even though
the divide between “Silo 11” by Canada’s Cherry Beach
project (the Mystery Sea release preceding this one) and “umbilicus
maris” is even greater than the distance between their
respective countries - which is saying quite a bit as Gydja’s
Abby Helasdottir resides in Wellington, New Zealand.
Which is proving those wrong who claim that the albums on Daniel Crokaert’s
label do sound somewhat alike. True, even Helasdottir’s
ambiances share a common language with some of the other artists on
his roster: Especially the final “Cold water flowing forth”
consists of those recognizably organic and immensely deep virtual field
recordings of moors filled with echoing noises, reverbed cracklings
and myriads of sighs, whispers and breathings while the opener “Beyond
the Earth’s edge” is an oblivious dronescape floating like
a river through skies of tinkling bells and hovering tones. But right
from the start, Helasdottir puts her own stamp on the pieces, including
overblown shepherd’s flutes and abruptly cut piano keys into the
mix and allowing more concrete elements to open up unusual associative
spaces. Especially in the two long pieces at the core of “umbilicus
maris”, she high-pressures her atmospheres into almost
unbearably dense aural traumata of suspenseful tectonics and threatening
choir clusters, before letting the tension slowly fizzle out and enter
spaces of caressing calmness. The latter is a distinct feature of her
style, which is characterized by free forms, a continuous tide and ebb
of gradually intensifying and relaxing compositional friction surfaces
as well as a contrast between manipulated and unprocessed recordings.
The other constitutional technique is creating a floating cohesion by
forcing disentangled elements to drift around each other like leaves
in a pond, touching each other occasionally in obscure embraces. It
is an intense trip, full of seemingly contradictory emotions, which
even strays into warm harmonies and major chord territory to catch a
few rays of the sun, before diving down into the maelstrom again.
Gydja is an old Norse word for priestess and indeed
some passages on the album have a strong ritualistic feel to them. Helasdottir
has however refrained from becoming overly sacral and never referred
to the typical signature sounds of the Dark Ambient scene. Her occultism
is not as much inspired by demons or evil spirits, but by the humanity
which still hides behind the voices of nature and the Gaia-force omnipresent
in the valleys and woods around us. As such it is also part of
the giant Night Drone Ocean of preceding releases which the Mystery
Sea label continues to explore.
Maris' is a truly revelatory work of environmental ambience
in the best tradition of Alio Die, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, etc but
FULLY oxygenated in the blood of Troum and other masters of subtle,
organic drone work. A raga that displays its own deeply realized internal
logic of the ancients; a paeon to fire, wind, soil--that is to say,
life and its infinite passings.