Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Rhizoma Bridges the Gap Between Mystic and Mythic

Email a Friend

Between Monday night’s Halloween festivities and Saturday’s not inconsiderable early snowstorm, we’re catapulting into November on an unsettlingly uneven keel, the type that often yields a charged atmosphere.

With that in mind, Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s debut album, Rhizoma, was released somewhat presciently just one week ago, bringing with it soundscapes that are epically vast tundras, complete with an added dimension that speaks to the 80 percent of Icelanders who believe in the possibility of elves, gnomes and the like.

There’s a grandeur in Rhizoma’s three longer tracks—Hrim (8:03), Dreaming (17:25) and Streaming Arhythmia (19:32)—that speaks to seemingly endless winters, volcanic ash, healing waters and grandiose clouds passing overhead. However, what makes them (along with the other five tracks interspersed throughout and collectively forming Hidden) so engrossing is an eye for the minutest of details. If, as the adage goes, every snowflake is different, then every note in Thorvaldsdottir’s intricate compositions is equally unique, a nod perhaps to her teacher at University of California in San Diego Lei Liang, who manipulates such pointillistic details to equally haunting and enveloping effects.

The album’s nifty tricks, however, pale in comparison to the treats: Icelandic compatriot and fellow composer Daníel Bjarnason leads the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in a spirited account of this disc, infusing Thorvaldsdottir’s works with a requisite amount of enchantment, myth and imagery. We may not see snow again until after the winter solstice, but in the meantime this will tide us over.