I mentioned this marvellous disc in a recent review of another Touch release (Jóhann Jóhannsson's Englabörn) and here it is in a repackaged reissue. The music was written for Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's Oscar winning 1991 film Children of Nature and the score itself won the Felix Music Award that year. The film tells the story of an elderly couple escaping the confines(?) of Reykjavik to make an epic journey back to their old home in the stunning but often savage Icelandic rural landscape; the beautifully produced booklet features several stills from the visually stunning movie but do see it if you ever get the chance. Suffice to say that Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson's soundtrack lives up to its task admirably. Hilmarsson is more recently known for his production work with Icelandic "avant electro-folk" group Sigur Rós and on Rímur (a new release on the Naxos World label) featuring Steindór Andersen's interpretations of a traditional form of narrative Icelandic epic song. However, on Children of Nature, he makes full use of keyboards, electronics and samplers, supplemented highly effectively by strings and percussion. The result, which he dedicated as a "commemoration of those I have loved and lost", is an accessible but profoundly moving set of short pieces which have a melancholic yet often uplifting feel to them. For those who insist on labels, this is superior soundtrack music rather than classical music per se but remains a firm favourite for me, seven years on from its first release. The opening Ars Moriendi, with its violin and cello driven themes, later reprised in Titles, sets the scene for rest of the album perfectly. The keyboards and electronic effects are never used excessively and this music feels much more organic than synthetic, especially as there are plenty of sampled natural sounds, e.g. choirs. Sudurgata may be the best known track here as it has also appeared on one of the Touch samplers and it is a gorgeous fusion of yearning Bachian (or Pärtian?) violin melody and Nordic folk music - I never tire of hearing it and look forward to many more people hearing it through this timely reissue. On Farm, Hilmarsson introduces some oriental instrumentation alongside the violin, providing a slightly different, more dissonant take on the overall mood, followed by the brief Snatis's Death and the heavier more substantial Journey, in which a cavernous, echoing sound picture predominates. After the rhythmic interlude that is Escape, Coffin is less grim than its title suggests, some rather resigned organ sounds being kept afloat by bells and a gorgeous violin melody. Gregorian chant can be heard in parts of Ascension but it is interpolated so skilfully and unobtrusively that the crassness we often associate with this sort of melding of disparate musical elements is totally avoided. In Titles, the violin tune from the very opening of the disc makes its reappearance, and quite rightly so, given its sheer simple beauty. Aerophilia, as the title suggests, is the lightest piece on the disc and puts me in mind of Eric Serra's music to The Big Blue. The latter is meant as a complement and the score as a whole can stand against the very best film music anywhere as far as I am concerned. Here percussion underpins chiming, upwardly spiralling keyboard melodies leading us (relatively) light-heartedly into the climax of the record, the valedictory Pretty Angels which, in contrast to the preceding track, is rather more severe than we might have expected. It starts off like an orchestrated version of Joy Division (New Dawn Fades or The Eternal, something like that!) then develops into a tuneful, elegiac procession culminating in a glorious conclusion featuring organ and harpsichord. So who should like and therefore buy this album? For starters, anyone who likes tuneful, melodic but serious modern music, e.g. ECM aficionados - Touch's production values echo that special label's and this music is not a million miles removed from the most recent inspirations of, say, Garbarek or Rypdal. Also, fans of superior soundtrack music (Bladerunner? Kitaro's Silk Road? Lord of the Rings?) are sure to respond positively to a significant voice in the genre. However, anybody who has any interest in any of the other artists, groups or composers mentioned above is bound to find something here for them too. In short, a record of wide appeal and hopefully, second time around, equivalent success. Of its kind, this is a truly great achievement, a stunning document I urge you to investigate immediately. [Neil Horner]
The Raging Consciousness (USA):
"This is the musical score to Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's film which won the Felix Music Award in 1991 and went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1992. It's absolutely superb as well. Hilmarsson takes the listener on a journey through some of the most graceful classical music heard. Occasionally, stopping off in grassy acre of ambience, (no, I don't mean the techno variety), Hilmarsson brings a freedom to classical music that other composers within this field, and sadly, lack. It's often apparent that film scores, once removed from the images they initially accompany, sometimes fail. Children of Nature isn't one of those scores. It works alone, and will become a CD that'll never leave your player. AS"
"Inverting above notions (see review of Leisure Zones Ash 2.5) completely is Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, who provides the symphonic score on the soundtrack to the film of the same name, Children of Nature. With his richly angelic neo-chamberist blending of chilly strings set amidst sweeping keyboards, Hilmarsson seems to approximate the Icelandic wilds and poignancy of the Icelandic landscape, punctuated by the minimalist tones of his instruments. His style recalls the expansiveness of Harold Budd's work with Zeitgeist, but on a more bouyant level; the twelve works to be found here fairly ache with melancholy, but it's a melancholy suggestive of triumph as well."
"Stunning album of atmospherics from "Iceland's finest modern composer" (it says here), this is the soundtrack to the film of the same name which won all kinds of awards on release in '91 (funny, I don't remember it). Anyway, bollocks and trivia aside, this album is deep, dark and affecting. When the violin starts its flight on 'Ars Moriendi', 'Coffin' and 'Titles', your heart is split in two like a knife through butter. The savage chord changes in 'Journey' are simply breathtaking. Closing track 'Pretty Angels' recalls 'Koyaanisqatsi' and is the finest song Ryuichi Sakamoto never wrote. When you get to a certain stage in life, you realise that some things, that you'd rather weren't, are gone forever. This is what that feeling, to anyone who's ever felt it, sounds like."
Vol. 7 No. 4 (USA):
"Hilmarsson's score to the 1992 film of the same name (Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film) is an inspired romantic blend of classical string sounds and electronics. This powerful collection sustains a melancholy, sorrowful tone throughout its 42 minutes, but this cathartic music is also beautiful, incorporating modern classical, ambient and minimalist sensibilities. The composer has found a strong mixture of angelic keyboards, mournful strings, some eerie effects, and percussion (on two pieces) which communicates stirring emotions. No surprise, considering Hilmarsson writes that "this music was written as a commemoration for those I have loved and lost": the results are a stunning score. The booklet features some gorgeous color photography, presumably from the film, which nicely complements the music." (Bryan Reesman)
"Iceland, the ever grey-green island with strange colourful human settlements as a contrast to unique prodigies of nature. As clouds drift away piecefully (sic) across the cold clear sky, a tiny breeze makes the sea waves dance in harmony with your mind. All is in tranquillity (sic). Then, out of the blue, one tone leads to the dramatic story of the children of nature. Only the pure beauty of this score is enough to understand the emotions meant to express in the film (sic). Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (alias HÖH, known for people that follow Andrew Mckenzie/The Hafler Trio activities) created a sensitive work of art combining deep ambient drawings with classical interludes. Twelve miniature symphonies building up the lush and resonant lamentation, a serene piece of music sometimes reminiscent of Arvo Part. As there are no further striking words to express the experience when you listen to this fragile jewel: the movie won the Oskar for best foreign film 1992, and the soundtrack was winner of the Felix Music Award 1991. Check this out and you'll cry in mercy!"
"...makes fine use of violin and cello to add a more human element, and which, outside of distinctive voices like Morricone or Nyman, or groovy pop/film tie-ins, is one of the better soundtracks I've heard in a while. It's sufficiently accomplished that some of it could sit next to Gorecki or Arvo Part with little problem."
"I think it's WONDERFUL frankly. The fact that the soundtrack can exist in isolation from its visual partner, yet convey an equally as involving, contemplative & deep bond with the audience, illustrates the evocative power, latent but here realised, within Hilmarsson's crafted compositions. It's a magnificent work. My only difficulty is putting my feelings about it into words, & finding which parts I enjoy most...
If The WIRE express an interest to you, I'd still like to write a profile about Hilmarsson. (When I first approached them with the notion, deputy editor Rob Young complained that he never heard of him, apparently). Maybe 'Children of Nature' will inspire him with deeper interest." (Des Hill)
Current eclectric playlist inc: JEAN JACQUES PERREY - 'Moog Indigo' (Vanguard LP, 1970) BROADCAST - 'Accidentals' (Wurlitzer Jukebox 7", 1996) STEREOLAB - 'Cybele's Reverie EP' (Duophonic 10", 1996) HUBLER & SCHWAB 'Los Vampiros Lesbos' 1969 various cuts (Crippled Dick Hot Wax LP, 1996 reissue) FREE DESIGN - 'New Direction' (Project 3 LP, 1972) SPACER - 'Atlas Earth' (Pussyfoot LP, 1996) HOWIE B - 'Music for Babies' (Sony LP, 1996) FRIED FUNK FOOD - 'Vol.2 EP' (Blunted 12", 1995) PIMP DADDY NASH - 'Our Man in Stockholm' (Mephisto '96) POTUZNIK - 'Solid Gold' (Cheap 12", 1996) FLUID MOTION - 'Traumatize' (Mephisto LP, 1996) STASIS - 'History of Future EP' (Excursions 12", 1996) PHOTEK - 'Still Life' remix (Razor's Edge 12', 1996) DOMINIQUE PETITGRAND - '11 Petites Compositions Familiales' (Staalplaat CD, '96) HILMAR ÖRN HILMARSSON - 'Children of Nature' (Touch CD, 1996)
Hilmarsson - 'Children of Nature' (Touch CD, 1996)
"The score to Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's award-winning 1991 film is a lush and resonant lamentation, written by HÖH "as a commemoration for those I have loved and lost." Both introspective and uplifting, this series of miniature symphonies and extended interludes is wonderful. The fact that the soundtrack can exist in isolation from its visual partner, yet convey an equally as involving, contemplative and deep bond with the audience, illustrates the evocative power, latent but here realised, within Hilmarsson's crafted compositions. In places this is a magnificent work. (Formerly a member of Current 93, Hilmarsson now lives in Denmark. Previously he collaborated with Andrew M. McKenzie on the mystical poppy trance 12" by H3OH, 'MNO Gol'Fish/Mindloss' released in 1993, and produced the double live album 'Those Who Do Not' for Psychic TV in Reykjavik, 1983)." (Des Hill)
Bryan Reesman's top ten of 1996 (Goldmine, USA):
(7) HILMAR ORN HILMARSON "Children Of Nature" - Touch (T33 14) - This melancholic score to the 1992 Oscar-winning foreign film offers some beautiful, haunting works which mesh dreamy electronics, elegiac strings, and other classically-oriented instrumentation. Powerful feelings of love, loss, and longing resonate throughout the album. Also features some beautiful color photographs in the booklet. (via Dutch East India, 150 W. 28th Street, Suite 501, New York, NY 10001)