“For a long time, this project has been extremely self-indulgent,” admits Ösp Eldjárn, somewhat bashfully. The project in question is Hrím, a collaboration between herself and fellow musicians Anil Sebastian and Cherif Hashizume. Musically, they bring together a variety of different styles, creating a unique sound that matches traditional Icelandic poetry with electronic soundscapes and orchestral swoops.
The band performed a small run of gigs in 2016, but have since appeared to be dormant to outside eyes. The announcement that Hrím will play their first Icelandic gig as part of this year’s Iceland Airwaves festival (coupled with the release of a handful of new singles), has thrust them back into public awareness. Despite the apparent stasis, Ösp reassures that plenty has been going on below the surface. “We’ve been creating music in this kind of flow state, just improvising and doing a jam session, basically,” she explains. “We reflect on it and take pieces that were good and somehow we create songs.”
Despite their limited output, Hrím have managed to craft a distinctive sound, one that cohesively reflects the individual influences and backgrounds of each band member. Ösp, who is originally from Svarfaðardalur, grew up surrounded by folk and traditional music and poetry, before going on to study both classical and jazz singing.
While completing her studies in London, she met the leader of London Contemporary Voices, Anil Sebastian. “We had the same approach to singing and we just felt like we needed to work together,” she says. Cherif, an electronic artist and producer, joined later. “He came in kind of as the third element and he brought in the soundscape thing which is another layer of our sound.” Cherif is a long-time collaborator of Jon Hopkins, co-producing his hit single ‘Emerald Rush’ that was released last year.
In fact, all three artists have a sparkling roster of former collaborators, albeit from quite different musical circles. Ösp predominantly performs her own acoustic folk compositions, but she was previously a member of Icelandic bluegrass group Brother Grass. Anil, on the other hand, has worked with the likes of Guy Sigsworth, Imogen Heap and Manu Delago.
Ösp recognises that their busy work schedules and other projects have held them back from investing more time in Hrím. However, the opportunity to play at Airwaves has been the push they have been looking for to commit to launching the group as a fully-fledged act. “We have more music that we have been writing as well, so we just want this set to be out and then we can continue,” she says. “We’re not going to go back to just being nerdy in a basement somewhere making weird noises.”
You can check out Hrím on their Facebook page.
Hrím will be playing Iceland Airwaves, which will be held from November 6th to 9th.
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