Skúli Sverrisson’s Seria II.

Skúli Sverrisson’s Seria II is the Echoes March CD of the Month

A sideman to New York’s music elite turns in a solo electric chamber work masterpiece.

Hear Skúli Sverrisson talk about his music tonight 5/27  Echoes.

Ambient chamber music is often atmospheric, melancholy and serene, but rarely is it as charming as Seria II by multi-instrumentalist and composer Skúli Sverrisson.  This Icelandic musician via New York’s downtown music scene has sculpted an album that sounds like a Mediterranean fling tossed into space.  Sverrisson manages to have a folkloric sense of melody and an ambient sense of sound design.

Sverrisson has been on the American music scene since the late 1980s.  He was a member of an early techno-tribal group, Mo Boma, that cut four CDs and he’s performed with people like Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and David Sylvian.  Anderson even appears on the first Seria CD.

He can play wild fusion with the likes of Allan Holdsworth, but Seria II takes him in a deeper, more contemplative direction.  These detailed and imaginative works have a more European flair with cinematic hints of Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone on some tracks, elements of Brian Eno and Philip Glass on others.  With a string section consisting of just Eyvind Kang and Hildur Gudnadottir on viola and cello, Sverrisson gets a ghostly chamber music sound on several tracks like the lilting “Unbend” and more classically pastoral “Módir.”  Even though there is only cello and viola on those tracks, they sound like an orchestra wafting in from across the lake.

It’s the details that make this album, with instrumental accents from celeste, omnichord and charango decorating Sverrisson and Amedeo Pace’s often arpegiatted guitar lines.  “Volumes” brings in toy piano, autoharp and glockenspiel set in mediaeval mode with Indian undertones before a cycling rhythm track emerges with a melody that sounds folky and gothic at the same time.

Ólof Arnalds (cousin of Ólafur Arnalds) sings on most of the tracks, and like the strings, she effects a wistful sound with wordless vocals in phantom choirs on “The Sound of Snow,” “Divena” and “Her Looking Back.”  The latter tune starts as a plaintive folk song before turning into a cinematic mood piece.

Sverrisson is best known as a bassist, but he also plays guitar, keyboards, and dobro on the album.  There’s no denying his melodic gifts on the over-dubbed “Instants” where he plays bass and electric guitar in a wistful, end of summer song that again, plays like a Rota score.

In Seria II ,  Skúli Sverrisson has composed a quietly masterful recording that draws you into a world that brims with nostalgia, while being thoroughly part of the 21st century.

Seria II is available from

If you enjoyed this, you’ll want to hear Skúli talk about his music tonight 5/27 and this coming weekend on Echoes.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

Sunday Echoes listeners can hear Icelandic ambient chamber music when Ólafur Arnalds plays live on Echoes. This is already going to be one of the best Echoes Concerts of the year.

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