RÖKKUR – Einar Sv. Tryggvason

An atmospheric Icelandic thriller from 2017, Rökkur (Rift) has Gunnar approaching middle age and who has split from a relationship with the younger Einar. Sometime later Gunnar receives a worrying phone call from Einar. Concerned for Einar’s safety, Gunnar travels to his ex-partner’s isolated family cabin. As well as going back over old unresolved issues they begin to realise that someone else may be creeping about at night. The score is written by Icelandic composer Einar Sv. Tryggvason.

By all accounts Rökkur is a film that is dominated by grief and isolation. It is set against the icy and bleak – but beautiful – backdrop of dramatic Icelandic landscapes. The music certainly reflects this mood with most of the instrumentation never really sounding anything other than creepy and unsettling. Piano and strings are a dominant feature of the score (“Barið að dyrum” and “Húsið”) with each contributing various uneasy and disquieting ostinato patterns that are effective at instilling a foreboding quality to the various atmospheric rumblings and ambiences the composer utilizes. A languid string motif oozes isolation and loneliness with an economy that is impressive (“Leemoy”).

Rökkur occasionally moves from this bleak soundscape and heads more towards conventional horror, with scare-tactic ‘stingers’ (e.g., “Mannavillt”) or cacophonous dissonant tones (“Sveltistampur”). A crazed off-kilter piano ostinato pattern combining with a dissonant staccato string motif is one of the more animated passages of the score as well as being more in keeping with a horror score (“Út í myrkrið”). Tryggvason reins in the in-your-face horror elements for more psychological horror with a creepy tapping-on-wood motif over low rumbles and metallic scrapes (“Gufuskálar”). This also adds variety to the score.

There are occasional moments where the music brightens (relatively speaking). The strings heard in “Undir norðurljósunum” give a slight hint of something more than the creepy world that dominates Rökkur. The progression of the strings hints at a more human side to the score. The presence of an acoustic guitar in several tracks (including the opening and closing cues of the album) offer an up-tempo aspect but scratchy string ostinatos and piano counterparts ensure that the overriding mood of the score isn’t far from the mind.

Einar Sv. Tryggvason’s score is strong on atmosphere and seems to be appropriate for the film’s subject matter and style. Rökkur won’t be for anyone, but if you enjoy immersing yourself in a musical landscape then perhaps this score is for you.

The album can be purchased at online stores as a digital download.

Rating: **½/*****

  1. Rökkur (2:01)
  2. Barið að dyrum (2:11)
  3. Freistingar (0:47)
  4. Ó, göngur (3:38)
  5. Hraunið (0:50)
  6. Gufuskálar (1:06)
  7. Leemoy (2:05)
  8. Draumsýnir (0:48)
  9. Ég ræð ekkert við þetta! (0:57)
  10. Húsið (3:07)
  11. Undir norðurljósunum (1:52)
  12. Út í myrkrið (2:01)
  13. Hleyptu mér út (2:01)
  14. Mannavillt (0:58)
  15. Gjótan (1:32)
  16. Sveltistampur (1:29)
  17. Ekki Stoppa (2:19)

Running Time: 29:47

Records DK (2019)

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