Nordic Affect are a pioneering group of Icelandic women period-performance musicians with a keen interest in women composers, contemporary and electro-acoustic music. Their instrumental core is flute, string trio plus harpsichord (traverso player Georgia Browne does not feature), each player doubling as a vocalist. The instrumental works are interspersed within the titular electro-acoustic He(a)r, by group member and producer Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir.
Impressions (2015) and Reflections (2016) by Anna Thorvaldsdóttir (b1977) are challenging listens, though are directly communicable, particularly the harpsichord-dominated Impressions in which Cowell-like playing techniques feature prominently. In Warm life at the foot of the iceberg (2014, for cello and piano but recast for Nordic Affect), Mirjam Tally (b1976, the only non-Icelander here) likewise creates a vivid tone picture of the interaction of glacial ice with solid rock.
Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (b1980) is a violinist as well as a composer and this is audible in the fluency of both of her works. There are many arid new music works named Spirals but Sigfúsdóttir’s is not one of them, the composer directing the course of her vibrant music as the music, not the geometry, dictates. The same applies to Loom, performable either as a concert piece as here or with a video component. In Point of Departure, Hildur Gunadóttir (b1982), a cellist, wrote a quartet for the four musicians to play ‘as one instrument. One voice’.
The performances sound extremely well executed, the electro-acoustic element applied with discretion. Stefánsdóttir’s He(a)r binds the whole together into a concept album more familiar from progressive rock music. That may not appeal to everyone, but the individual pieces can be appreciated in their own right. Sono Luminus’s sound is superb, close and clear as if the musicians were in the room with you.