Úlfur is one of the first Icelandic words that I learnt. My tutor, an eight-year-old Icelandic girl, drew a picture of a wolf and pointed at it. It’s also the name of a really good Icelandic beer, and the first name of Úlfur Hansson.
Úlfur is probably best known for his work on Sigur Rós front man Jónsi’s solo ‘Go’ project and tour, but has been part of the Icelandic music scene long before this association. He was a member of ‘Swords of Chaos’ and has recently been associated with the extraordinary ‘Vessel Orchestra’—composing pieces of music with Lilja Birgisdóttir to be played by the shipping fleet in Reykjavik’s harbor.
Earlier this year, Úlfur released his first album, White Mountain. It was a quiet release on Western Vinyl, but features fellow Icelandic musicians Sigrún Jónsdóttir (Björk collaborator), legendary bassist Skúli Sverrisson, and Mountain Man’s Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. It’s a gentle, haunting album, full of soundscapes, electronic trickery and yearning acoustics. It’s less of a party album, more of a Sunday morning ease-yourself-back-to-life album. Oh, and it has Ewoks.
I used to have this book as a kid, it was called The Ewoks join the fight. My fondness for Ewoks evolved into a lifelong love of anything star wars—especially the comics.
How would you describe your music?
That’s a tough one! I don’t know… intuitive music, I guess. Sometimes when I listen to it afterwards it sounds like I had nothing to do with it in the first place. It kind of emerges in the spur of the moment and after its been realized it has a life of its own.
How did White Mountain come about?
I’m constantly collecting sounds and ideas, with an album in mind. The White Mountain release was the last generation of a collection of tracks that kept evolving over four years, and when its finished you kind of just know.
Does ‘white mountain’ refer to an actual place? Snaefellsjökull comes to mind.
It’s a reference to Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain and René Daumal’s Mount Analogue.
René Daumal’s Mount Analogue was mentioned a bit in Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic. He talked about the book being his main inspiration for Holy Mountain, so I immediately sought it out at the local bookstore.
There was one idea in particular that intrigued me while reading the book—the idea of the peradam—a rare perfectly round crystal, it’s spherical crystallization made possible due to the warped space surrounding Mount Analogue. The fact that it’s perfectly round makes the peradam near invisible to the naked eye—so for those who seek it, it is extremely difficult to find.
However, every now and then someone’s gaze will drift mindlessly, and at just the right angle catch a glimpse of the brilliant refractions of sunlight emitting from the peradam. This would only be possible when you are not looking.
That to me is analogous to the way creativity works. Art surfaces when you aren’t trying too hard.
You are part of Jonsi’s touring band. Did you enjoy the experience? Would you do it again?
Absolutely—music is my life. I hope I will be fortunate enough to be able to continue travelling and playing music for the rest of my life.
How much of your music is created in Iceland? I think your music sounds ‘Icelandic’ and couldn’t have been made anywhere else. Would you agree?
The better half of White Mountain was written on tour buses and hotel rooms all around the world. I have mentioned elsewhere that it serves as a kind of collage of memories for my—field recordings from different parts of the world, spliced together—creating abstract scenarios that are hyper-real, and extra-personal.
Despite the fact that Úlfur clearly doesn’t agree that his music sounds ‘Icelandic,’ I think it does. I agree though that it is hyper-real and extra-personal. If you get chance, give White Mountain a try. For nothing else, it has Ewoks on it.
Original article here.
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