After filling the position of bassist for Jónsi, Icelandic talent Úlfur Hansson has decided to flap his wings and venture out into the world of solo artists. His debut album, titled White Mountain, is a collection of relaxing landscape tunes, ones that you could imagine being played at a luxurious spa. With a mixture of electronic guitars, field recordings and slight percussion, the album is extremely peaceful—maybe a little too peaceful.
White Mountain lost me within the first two songs as the calm instrumentals disconnected me from everything, including the album. The opening song, “Evoke Ewok,” is introduced by the sound of seagulls and a distinct electronic buzz. An acoustic guitar, chimes and what wind-like tones are later added. And just as the song drifts you into near sleep, it ends and smoothly transitions into “So Very Strange.” The first song leaves you feeling blissful and at peace with the world, while “So Very Strange” drones on and on like a long book with no plot. The ominous ohms are sprinkled with harp-like sounds that try to save the dying song but to no avail. The track, which is only five minutes long, drags on so slowly that it seems double that.
Thankfully the next two songs, “Black Shore” and “Heaven In A Wildflower,” are the warmest on the album and my personal favorites. They save the album from falling into the deep lonesome grave that Úlfur was digging for himself. On “Black Shore,” the percussion is harder and more upbeat than on prior songs, and just like that, you are snapped from your trance and taken on an engaging journey of xylophone-like sounds, smooth synths and an androgynous voice that’s relaxing but still engaging. “Heaven In A Wildflower” is an acoustic tune that’s introduced by what sounds like a recorder for the first two minutes before being joined by a slight strum of a guitar. Violins and sweet whistles unite as the song does a subtle drop before drifting off into near silence. The guitar is reintroduced while keeping the complete tranquil mood that Úlfur has set, and the song dies out with the same hum that introduced it.
White Mountain is for those days when you want to clear your mind and escape your thoughts. “Each individual sound has a very special memory attached to it,” Úlfur states in the album’s press material. “I imagine this White Mountain, an invisible imaginary place—a sacred place on the horizon.” But his attempt at painting this picture results in a watery image, more of a sleepy mirage than anything concrete that yields a connection.