Semilunar is a very conscious solo debut of Rauður, an artist present on the Icelandic scene for many years. The album is filled with Scandinavian melancholy, coherent but not lacking in experimental trips. It displays a rich diversity of emotions, and although it sounds dreamy and gentle (most of it), it radiates with great power, awesome in vocals, composition and timbre. It premiered on the 11th of October.
Rauður (Icelandic for ‘red’ or ‘ginger’) is a stage alias of Auður Viðarsdóttir. The artist lived until recently in a little town in southern Sweden. There, in her domestic studio, she worked on compositions that eventually came together into a whole album. The pieces, composed through the last few years, were recorded in various places throughout Sweden and in Iceland, where she lives at the moment, at the Dungeon Studio in Reykjavik, where Auður returned this year.
Auður recalls starting up her first synthesizer (Roland SH-201) as a teenager in an old garage in her home city of Reykjavik and using a microphone for the first time. Together with her brothers, she set up a famous Icelandic group called Nóra, in which she played keyboard instruments. Later, the group’s activity was suspended. In 2015, Egill and Bjarki established their band: Andy Svarthol. Auður started improving her music creativity, taking steps to create unique sound landscapes that remained in harmony with the timbre of her name, which is completely unpronounceable for non–Icelandic speakers.
A conscious debut
Semilunar is, therefore, a very conscious debut. We can hear it in each of the nine pieces. I have the impression that the main character of the album is Rauður’s voice, exquisitely mellifluous against the background of ambient spaces, with which it merges fantastically.
The lyrics, sung in Icelandic, add more enchantment and vibe. I must admit that I’m not objective in this field, but although I don’t speak Icelandic myself, I love its timbre in songs. In Rauður’s case, the language has great importance. Its rough sound harmonizes perfectly with layered music and lets us feel the completeness of the whole. Of course, not all of the album is sung in Icelandic. Some of the lyrics are in English, and there are moments when both languages intertwine. But the transitions and changes between the languages are so natural and graceful that they go’ unnoticed.
Emotions and power
This album strikes me as having two parts. The first is longer and significantly more peaceful, lyrical, ambient and dreamy, and it can be divided into six pieces. One feels a rich diversity of emotions in this part of the album—sorrow and sadness, as well as an immense power. The subsequent pieces, right from the first sounds of ‘Flugdreki’, switch from one to another very fluently, almost merging as we reach ‘Tunglið’ (Icelandic for ‘moon’), a piece that offers some hints to understanding the album. The artist speaks: ‘What happens when the moon in our heart breaks? That’s what my two-year-old daughter used to say when she was sad or disappointed. Sometimes we feel that the world is discerping us, and we would love the moon to drag us into a totally different one’.
A semilunar mark in a broken heart is one possible interpretation of the title. When asked about its meaning, Auður suggests more insights. Semilunar is a projection of a (only) half-fool mind; it also refers to a total upside-down inversion. So the artist gives us freedom and a lot of possibilities for interpretation. Her aim was to create harmonies based on contradictions—peace in chaos, confusion within a feeling of comfort.
One thing is beyond doubt: the album is very emotional and sincere. And although sometimes its sound spaces give rise to almost trans club timbres (‘Bjögun’ and ‘Semilunar’), these changes, relating to the whole album and Auður’s temperament, don’t shock at all. ’In fact, they are a natural development from playing with electronic sounds. They become the core issue of the album, its second—more critical and, in some ways, more joyful—part. The album ends with a very special piece: ‘We Will All Feel Better One Day and/Or Die’, a fantastic lyrical and romantic composition with a beautiful chorus that completes not only the song itself but the whole album. Rauður left me in a state of enchantment, in a kind of a dreamy, (semi)lunar immersion and reverie.
I mentioned power and force emerging from this soft-sounding CD. Rauður has a great amount of both. She recorded and produced the whole album herself. ’She also had some support from her brother, Egill Viðarsson, who’ mixed the material, and Becki Whitton (Aphir), who was responsible for mastering. When we talk about Rauður, we can’t forget about the visual part, from the video clips (directed inter alia by Þórdís Reynisdóttir) that announced the album to the sleeve, created by talented Icelandic designer and illustrator María Árnadóttir. The album was published by the Synth Babes collective.
Words by Bartek Wilk
Rauður – Semilunar
8. We Will All Feel Better One Day And/Or Die