CD, self-released, 2004
Reviewing ambient music, one of my favourite styles, is always a challenge. The same cliches crop up, words like “ethereal” and “atmospheric” – or you react against that and are reduced to onomatopoeia – “wooshing,” “clanging” or whatever. With Hjortur, the challenge is in taking the CD off repeat. “Chandni” is a collision of genres – synthpop, folk, indie – but presented to the listener through opaque filters, not so much watering down more straightforward songs and mixing them out of our hearing range, but using subtlety and wit to offer both the beauty and functionality of ambient.
With instrumentals like “Azure”, layering shoegazer guitar chords over melodic, bubbling synthesis, beauty and lightness are the order of the day. “Wind of Green” lifts the listener dreamily with its space-pop leanings. “Sha-lala-lala” is the definitive track on the disc for me, with it’s string chords phasing in and out as to mimic an orchestra and synthpop bass and vocals, it could be Serge Gainsbourg or Depeche Mode or Von Karajan – or all three, several rooms away in an icy haze.
At times cold and mystical, but never grave, at times strange and playful, always pretty and always washed in ambience, Hjortur’s Chandni makes for pleasant listening. Ignore the cringeworthy New Age tag, and press play. You’ll be pining for the fjords.
— James Ryan