MOONBOW is Gunnar Andreas Kristinsson’s second album, the first to be released on a major label. The music, performed by leading members of the Icelandic contemporary music scene, was recorded in Kaldalo´n and Norðurljo´s, the two recital halls of Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall. While Gunnar’s first album, Patterns, contains pieces from his study and freelance years in The Hague, MOONBOW is a selection of more mature works from a fruitful period in the composer’s life after moving back to Iceland in 2009, with all the experience from the Netherlands in his pocket. The album features a trio, a quartet and a quintet, flanked by two larger ensemble pieces. The works are diverse, not only in terms of instrumentation but also in terms of musical subject and give a good insight into Gunnar’s distinctive and personal sound-world.
Kristinsson’s style blends elements of tonality, atonality, New Simplicity (especially in its obsessive repeated patterns) and postmodernist techniques. Patterns IIb (2016) is a fine example of that, with its louring atmosphere despite its use of an Icelandic folk song and euphonious chiming percussion: it was based on a piece of 2004 scored for quartets of gamelan and Western instruments. Roots (2019), by contrast, takes the overtone series as its abstract inspiration. The evocative titletrack, Moonbow (2017), played with relish here by the excellent Siggi Quartet, is more straightforwardly descriptive, reflecting in sound the lunar rainbow (or ‘moonbow’). As such, it is the most directly communicative, and put me in mind at some removes of Saariaho’s celebrated aurora borealis-inspired Lichtbogen (1986).
Sono Luminus provides sound to match Kristinsson’s often coruscating textures and the performers’ clean, luminous virtuosity. You will not regret investigating this music.