Twin sisters Jófríõur and Ásthildur Ákadóttir have been making music as Pascal Pinon since they were 14, but while their lives have pulled them in different geographical directions recently, the distance between them hasn’t diminished their desire to work together. Jófríõur has spent the past few years touring the world with her other band, Icelandic electronic trio Samaris, while Ásthildur went to Amsterdam in order to study classical piano and composition before subsequently returning to Iceland, and even though the majority of the record was recorded in just two days (with the help of their father, composer Áki Ásgeirsson), their third album, Sundur, is far from a rushed-sounding effort.
'Jósa & Lotta' lays out the sparse blueprint for much of the record - a beautifully melancholy piano line and the sisters’ harmoniously intertwined voices, with just a few ambient sounds added to reinforce the song’s natural intimacy. ‘53’, meanwhile, channels a sense of traditional folk storytelling, with Jófríõur recounting a friend’s tale of his mother’s suicide in a way that’s both deeply respectful of the tragedy therein while also being poignantly poetic. A more personal sense of loss permeates ‘Forest’, which sees Jófríõur mourning “you were my heroin” over strangely clockwork beats and downcast synthesisers. Album-closer ‘Weeks’ also draws from the same well of emotions, telling how personal losses can take a toll on one’s sanity and sense of self.
Indeed, it’s quite a heavy album thematically - so ‘Skammdegi’ provides a welcome change of mood by being sung entirely in Icelandic, allowing the pure beauty of the duo’s hushed voices to come to the fore. ‘Ást’ - named simply after the Icelandic word for ‘love - achieves the same thing later in the album, whilst also emphasising Ásthildur’s deft piano playing. Given the very real sadness of many of the songs, there’s also something comforting about the escapist musings of ‘Babies’, with it;s talk of flying high on angel wings and diving deep into the sea.
The duo emphasise their more experimental side with a pair of instrumental tracks. The chiming piano line that winds its way though ‘Spider Light’ is an almost pointedly acoustic sound in an otherwise artificial world, while ‘Twax’, is a dreamy, ambient soundscape that juxtaposes comforting sounds with unsettling ones to curious effect. However, it’s the most stripped-back track that’s also one of the most affecting - ‘Orange’ takes little more than Jófríõur’s voice and Ásthildur piano playing and spins a bittersweet tale of love lost and (eventually) found.
Indeed, the most impressive thing about this record is its sense of intimacy. Everything from the minimal arrangements, to the briefly heard flutter of a page turning draws you into the world that Jófríõur and Ásthildur inhabited when they were making the album. They may have been apart for a while, but Sundur is proof that the musical connection between the two sisters is as strong as ever.
7Paul Faller's Score