MYSTERY SEA 36 | Gydja | [umbilicus maris]


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-"Nec 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."

Paulus 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 beyond frontier...

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...


01. Beyond the Earth's Edge
02. The wave, with red stain running
03. Snakestone
04. A siren stood hymning upon each circle
05. Cold water flowing forth




VITAL WEEKLY 565|Frans De Waard
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.
vital weekly

The Magdalene
"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.

AQUARIUS 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 that focus.
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.

Rated : 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.
musique machine

TOKAFI |Tobias Fischer  
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.


GOS|Ben Fleury-Steiner   --- NEW !
Gydja's 'Umbilicus 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.