Island life is such a romanticised concept, both islanders and outsiders perpetuate a vision of a peaceful and harmonious life away from the complex existence of the mainland. Mind you, even mainland life on Iceland is quieter and with more hardships than most, so the ~120 residents of Hrísey must truly be dedicated yet satisfied individuals; “-you need to be sort of special to live here” as we’re appropriately informed in “Swing”. These feelings of isolation, of oneness with nature and the tightness of island communities, wrapped up in the stunning and unquestionable beauty of Iceland, are the goal of George Cloke’s field recordings and light Ambient/Modern Classical musings mapped onto the island of the project’s namesake.
Naturally the largest clusters of mapped sounds fall in the populated South-Eastern corner of the island, with “Ferry In” and “Docks” being our point of entry to this new and mysterious place, singing in the low drones of a disappearing diesel engine and the repetitive squeaking of the lonely pier. There’s even a bit of bustle to be found in the strangely modern trappings of Pop and thrumming activity in “Communal Gathering”, which juxtaposes somewhat ominously with the emptiness of “Ptarmigan Playground” and ultimately the creaking loneliness of “Swing”, in which a female islander speaks briefly about the raising of children there. There’s almost a tantalising dislike of human presence and activity, as evidenced by the dark ambient machinations of “Abandoned Digger”, this harsh mechanical relic of industrialisation that we spread to every corner of the globe.
Outside of the main population center we find ourselves increasingly lost in pleasant isolation, particularly as we begin to head northwards. The ever-present sea and the impossibly calming gentle lapping of waves is especially represented, from the quiet reflections of “Black Sand Beach”, the fragile sloshings of beautiful “A Throne In The Fjord”, the elevated heights and somewhat detached “Cliffs” and the brilliant energy and spray of “Aegir’s Cauldron”. They feel like stationary moments, places frozen in time assured to endure beyond our pitiful lifespans. This humility extends to the quiet reflections of “Northern Lights”, silent as we bask in its unseen glow, and particularly so in the disconnection of “Wind At The Summit”, which seems to leave all sense of time behind as the lonely and tugging wind swirls around, reminding us of our small presence here in its domain.
A little music is splashed here and there to add some flavour and help the atmosphere too, for example the whispery Icelandic recitations of “The Energy Spot” fall out of its light drones and faint piano, a really airy sort of Ambient Folk kind of piece. Elsewhere on our roadward journey North we see more piano interposed with nature, gaining traction through “Birds Chirp (From Shrub To Wire)”, gaining more ground in the hydrophonic gurglings and scrapings of “Spring Tide” and peaking in the playful movements of happy and carefree “Tread Softly”. Best of all may be the musical ode to land’s end in “Edge of the World”, turning over and again as it spins its pointed movements out into the endless ocean beyond this spit of land.
You really get a sense of place with this collection of sounds, you can really feel the love exuding from each recording and almost catch yourself gazing out upon the black volcanic fjords and cool sea water between. It’s tantalisingly peaceful, a brief and shining collection of transportative aural postcards that give us a hint of the quiet and distant life of this little Icelandic isle.