From Iceland — Track by Track: Hekla, "Xiuxiuejar"

Track by Track: Hekla, “Xiuxiuejar”

Track by Track: Hekla, “Xiuxiuejar”

Published January 16, 2023

Josie Gaitens

Theremin virtuoso Hekla’s album ‘Xiuxiuejar’ was released in September 2022 has just been named Album of the Year in the 2023 Grapevine Music Awards. Why? Well, it’s brilliant. You might think that the mix of theremin, vocals and cello would be a weird combo… and you’d be right. But it’s a weirdness we really dig. Paired with Hekla’s sensitivity and accomplished arrangements, it makes for a darkly enjoyable listen. We were curious to know Hekla’s take on the album. Here, she guides us through the release, track by track.

The Whole


I always knew the album was going to be more conceptual — kind of more of a journey, going somewhere. So it’s a bit of a cycle. The starting song is like a siren song, inviting you. You think it’s going to be something that it kind of isn’t; you’re heading towards this hole in the end and throughout you’re experiencing different places, different textures.

Silfurofinn

The title of the track means woven in silver. With most of this songs — “Silfurofinn” especially — I was conscious of something being warm and cold at the same time. I used a mix of phone recordings for the vocals and then the instrumental parts were done in a studio. I kind of like the contrast of doing something really lo-fi and then also going to a proper studio. It’s an interesting texture.

Enn og Aftur


This is all theremin feedback. It’s distorted theremin to the point where you don’t really hear it’s a theremin anymore. I love the classic theremin sound but I also really love to take it to a new realm.

Sólin Gekk


This one is warmer than the others. It doesn’t really have a proper structure, like most of the songs. I had my friends Sindri Freyr and Arnljótur play the flutes at the end. The high pitched flutes sound so good with the theremin, they just blend so well.

Akkeri


I had this old theremin loop that I wanted to use. I pitched down my cello a lot — physically tuned the instrument down — and recorded that and then put the theremin loop on top.

Í Kyrrð


On this one I’m singing — yeah, there’s singing on the album! Even though there aren’t that many lyrics or anything, I think it’s still a really personal album, because it’s really me.

I like how words sound. This song is about not being able to sleep — but I kind of like how the words sound more than I like the meaning of them. How the vowels fit in with whatever’s happening in the music.

Tangarhald


This sounds more like older songs I used to do. It’s a more traditional theremin sound: kind of ancient and futuristic at the same time.

Hrakföll


I really love the poetry that my friends Birta Ósmann Þórhallsdóttir and Ástríður Tómasdóttir wrote. It means a lot to me that I had their permission to use it. I often get inspired by other art forms. I always have some visuals running while I’m playing ‘cos I really like to make loops for a long time.

Ris og Rof


This song I used in a soundtrack that I did. For concerts I usually do different versions of my songs, or mashups. So this one has just transformed into a completely different song. I added the cello and I played the same notes but just in different places of the strings. You just get such a different sound depending on where you place your bow.

The Hole


At this point the hole is not as nice and you’re just kind of stuck down there! Throughout all the songs you can feel like there’s something going on; there are alarm bells ringing sometimes. You know it’s not going to be such a nice place in the end.

It’s kind of like a hole you create yourself: you kept digging and now you’re there!

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