Hauschka – aka Valgeir Sigurosson – is a cult German pianist famous for filling his piano with everything from ping pong balls to bottle tops, thereby expanding its range to include rhythmic plonks as well as melodic chirrups. Hilary Hahn is a preeminent classical violinist who has collaborated with the likes of Trail Of Dead. They’ve both been tickling mainstream musical tastes for a few years and, while Silfra’s 12 tracks – recorded over ten days of improvisation in a Reykjavik studio last year – won’t be making any appearances on Dubai One, they’ll be relished by those who revel in the kind of hidden worlds and cinematic landscapes imagined by Scandi sonic landscapers Sigur Rós or neoclassical composer Max Richter.
‘Silfra’ is the name given to a spectacular rift between two tectonic plates that occurs near Reykjavik; rifts and reconciliations are good touchstones for an instrumental album that successfully bridges the gap between experimental (and potentially po-faced) minimalism and sheer natural beauty. On opener ‘Stillness’, Hahn’s violin strings quiver like birdsong in an empty garden, before ‘Bounce Bounce’ allows Hauschka’s urgent Morse code piano bashes to beat up the sense of peace.
The album could be a movie soundtrack, but like Eno’s Music for Films, it doesn’t need pictures to create its effects; for example, montaging Polish history on the traditional music-inflected ‘Krakow’, or signalling the bittersweet end of an affair with the minor-chord-heavy ‘Ashes’. The gap between pretentious and preternaturally beautiful is a thin one, but Hahn & Hauschka are on the right side of the fissure. Jonny Ensall