Unintentional wave-like finger ballet performance, hands swiftly gliding across keys and controllers, easily generating beats, bass lines and different layers of mysterious dark sounds. Visiting Rannvá Helenudóttir, the woman behind the Faroese electro pop project HULDA, at her cozy close to the sea Tórshavn home. Synthesizer, child’s swing, sampler, kids shopping cart. Furniture equally set by the two residents of the sun-drenched apartment: Ragna (3), currently in kindergarten. And Rannvá (37), mom, pedagogue, musician and inventor of the HULDA style.
HULDA: name derived from the huldufólkið, “hidden creatures that are said to inhabit large rocks in the Faroese outfields“, Rannvá explains while pouring quite a lot of milk into her coffee mug. “Not only are huldufólk regular features of Faroese folklore and sagas, but also main characters of events I’ve heard about. Actually, several senior citizens have told me stories, describing personal encounters with the grey elvish-like beings.“ Most certainly, there is complete agreement on that: Huldufólk come out at night. And: Every time you upset them, something really bad happens.
It is save to say that – at the very beginning of the HULDA project – Rannvá belonged to the species of hidden creatures herself. “Nobody knew the person behind the name HULDA. In fact, I had decided to remain anonymous because I wanted to keep my electronic music project and my work as a singer-songwriter separate.“
At the time when Rannvá’s debut album HULDAsound – produced by Jens L. Thomsen, recorded in the Faroe Islands at Støkumørk, Eysturoy, and Dartmouth Place, London – was published, people listened to a fine mix of electro, ambient and pop, built on powerful beats, carried by female vocals and a clear, faceless voice. Only at a later stage Rannvá unveiled the truth: “In the long run, it’s exceptionally unlikely to keep that kind of secret in a place like the Faroe Islands“.
Wondering: How does HULDA fit into Rannvá’s previous music life – i.a. Bachelor of Music (Hons) in Music Performance & Production at the LCCM, formerly known as the London Centre of Contemporary Music; flute and vocals as part of the “gypsy punk heavy jazz“ band Früli Schü; performing cover songs in bars; initiating and organizing multiple music projects, workshops and events for kids, teens and adults; and, furthermore, singing lots of jazz? Very simple. Rannvá: “I kept hearing the electronic sound of HULDA in my head“.
The creation of HULDA music: First, Rannvá writes and composes all her songs on guitar and piano. Following this, she converts her work into HULDA sound. Home studio and performance equipment? Rannvá for experts: “I use a TC Helicon Voicelive Touch, a Theremini, a Roland SP-404A sampler, a Yamaha Reface DX synthesizer and sometimes a Novation LaunchPad.“ Rannvá for everyone else: “Maybe you could say that, when I'm performing solo, I'm using a sampler, a synth and a Moog Theremini (annotation: a re-imagination of one of the oldest electronic musical instruments in history) as well as singing.“ When it comes to music production, many more instruments are involved.
HULDA lyrics (either Faroese or English) at close range: in many cases personal. ‚Sorgin‘ (the grief, sadness) straightforwardly reveals the pain and sorrow Rannvá felt when her beloved grandmother was first diagnosed with cancer and then died a year later. ‚Vit Rakna‘ (we are waking up, like: we regain consciousness) was written after Rannvá had become a mother. A song that conjures vivid images of glorious sunrise sunbeams. The acoustic essence of lush green other-worldly hills and large rocks in the Faroese outfields. Early in the morning, the huldufólkið asleep. Don’t wake them up, or else they’re coming to get you in the late evening.
PLACES Rannvá has been living at: Denmark, Faroe Islands, Greenland, London. MUSIC she listened to when she and producer Jens L. Thomsen figured out the HULDA sound: FKA twigs, Banks, Sohn. ALL-TIME FAVORITES: Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Waits, Massive Attack, Portishead and Fiona Apple. JOB besides music: working as a social pedagogue with children and teenagers.