Landvættirnar fjórar by Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson

Performed by Steinalda

Releases on October 28th on Carrier Records

Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson is a crystalline sound-sculpter and among the early pioneers of animated notation is returning for his third album on Carrier Records (30th album in total). It is a piece performed by Guðmundur’s ensemble Steinalda and recorded by indie veteran Albert Finnbogason at Sundlaugin Studios.

His new record revolves around the concept of the four elements as they appear in Icelandic folklore and turns and twists their modern re-evaluations, raising questioins of ownership over ideas and their relation to identity. Or as the composer would have it:

“In 2016, I had a strange vision of Landvættirnar fjórar, the four divine guardian spirits that watch over the four corners of my non-militarized country. In Icelandic folklore, the Eastern dragon, Northern eagle, Western bull, and Southern giant make up the coat of arms and appear on all Icelandic currency. For some they represent the identity of the land itself prior to the people, while others think that it’s a spin on the Four Evangelists, while yet others believe they represent the four classical elements of antiquity.

I’ve seen relations with other guardian spirits and similar elements in Buddhism, in particular the four noble truths, which have informed my ideas on musical form (suffering, desire, solution, path).

At some point I became obsessed with dividing sounds into categories. First there were eight, then seven, then five, and finally four. It always made more and more sense to have fewer and fewer categories. Once they were down to four—short quick notes, long sustained notes, short percussive sound, unstable glissando sounds—I couldn’t reduce them any further. This was the ultimate focus. I was reminded of the vision of the Landvættir from 2016 and the dots started to connect.

I made up my own musical fairy tales about the Landvættir in which I could seek solace and find a dwelling place that I want to inhabit.”
The album streamed

Steinalda is a group of musicians cherry picked from various other Icelandic ensembles the composer Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson has worked with: Andrés was once a naughty music theory student of his. Þórunn is a multi-disciplinary artist who happens to play fancy recorders. Óskar is a classical guitar virtuoso, stranded in Kópavogur due to COVID. Steinunn is a flutist who has worked with everyone from Björk to Bára Gísladóttir.Páll Ivan is a best friend, co-conspirator and former housemate who plays just about everything. Ásthildur used to be in the band Pascal Pinon and is a pianist in her regular day job.

From a performance in Mengi, Reykjavík by Steinalda

They are:

Þórunn Björnsdóttir = tenor recorder, ocarinas, bottles, rabbit calls 

Steinunn Vala Pálsdóttir = flute, ocarina, bottles, samba whistle

Ásthildur Ákadóttir = melodica, toy piano,  percussion, various whistles

Óskar Magnússon = guitarlele, modified recorder, percussion

Páll Ivan frá Eiðum = percussion, modified recorder, toy piano, various whistles

Andrés Þór Þorvarðarson = percussion, modified recorder, various whistles

Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson

Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson is among the early pioneers of animated notation. His approach is based on intuitive explorations of organic rhythms that cannot be confined to any metronome. This extends into his ideas on intonation, harmony, sonorities and musical structure. Recently, the concept of the four elements has been a major influence, as have ancient tunings and traditional Icelandic poetic meters. He has been a part of the S.L.Á.T.U.R. experimental music association in Reykjavík, where he has found many like-minded individuals among whom he has been able to develop his ways, means and style.

The double LP

Sam T. Rees is a Worcestershirean artist who works with interactive electronics, hacked robotics, found objects and strange printing methods. He is an enthusiast of print, ink and obscure old, rare DIY methods that never really caught on. He has an eclectic collection of obsolete printers, digital, analog, non-electrical, gelatinous or fully vegan. Some date back more than a 100 years, others only 70 while the youngest are somewhere around 40. He and Guðmundur Steinn have worked together on 7 different record and CD covers + the most recent one that is on double LP (hand-made very very ultra limited edition) and CD (also hand-made and in very limited edition).

One of many versions of the cd

Further info:

Tel: +354 845 0065




From Reviews:

The listening experience feels like being welcomed into an eccentric, remote village where residents have freely mashed together ancient traditions and newly invented customs to devise their own rustic utopia.” –Nick Storring on sinfónía in musicworks magazine Fall 2020.

. . . but there is nothing traditional about Gunnarson’s sound world. Part of the freedom of the music is the way he treats the non-traditional instruments, it feels different, but the textures are complex and highly evocative. The non-rigid notation means that there is an intriguing flexibility of rhythms, similarly the pitches. “ -Robert Hugill on Sinfónía for Planet Hugill, June 25th 2020.

” . . .Every piece on Skartamannafelagid is a triumph of this deeply integrated way of composing; layers pulling in different directions, astonishingly novel textures and sounds. We have something that appears to effortlessly bypass many conventions of form, melody and rhythm. . .  A mesmerising set; absolutely gorgeous music.”“ -Ed Pinsent on Skartamannafelagid and Vorlag/Sumarlag in the Sound Projector January 12 2020.

“. . . [I] immediately fell in love with its complex, unpulsed soundworld, its just intonation, and its ambitious scale.” -Daryl Jamieson from Aesthetics for Birds about Einvaldsóður which he selected as number 4 on the top 5 for contemporary music pieces of the decade 2010-2019.

“The opening of the work was breathtaking, . . . it was a beautiful and stunning resolution.” –Simon Cummings on Laberico Narabida in 5against4 in February 2019

“Gudmundur Steinn Gunnarsson’s glistening “Grafgata“ . . .” -Steve Smith on Grafgata for The New York Times in April 2013

“A pointillist st-st-st-st-stroke from an Icelandic composer whose Autechresque sense of rhythm blurs the lines between organized, random, and sheer madness. He makes a 27-instrument ensemble sound like rain falling on a Guitar Center.” -Christopher R. Weingarten for SPIN magazine about Horpma on the end of year avant list 2011.

“. . . To most this will sound like music for transcendental meditation, but what it really is is the new in contemporary classical composition.” -Thomas R. Erdmann in Jazz Review July 2011

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