Yndi Halda: Enjoy Eternal Bliss
Burnt Toast Vinyl / Big Scary Monsters

Name the ‘instrumental rock' group renowned for twenty-minute epics saturated with euphoric peaks and restful valleys and that features a front line of guitar and violin backed by a powerhouse rhythm section. Yndi Halda (Old Norse for ‘enjoy eternal bliss') might not be the first answer that springs to mind but the quartet satisfies the criteria just the same. But don't dismiss the Kingsdown, UK-based quintet—James Vella (aka A Lily) and Jack Lambert on guitars, Daniel Neal on violin, and Brendan Grieve and Oliver Newton on bass and drums—as a Godspeed You! Black Emperor clone as there are differences, probably the major one a fundamental difference in tone: where Godspeed in its quieter passages is somber and funereal, Yndi Halda—on its full-length debut, Enjoy Eternal Bliss, at least—is melancholy but not bereft, and, in fact, often pretty.

There's nothing unbearable about the group's lightness of being, though. “Dash and Blast” begins the hour-long album peacefully with a gentle whisper, then jolts to attention, slowly sets out on its long journey led by the yearning cry of Neal's crying violin, and then—just as one expects it will—detonates with an epic guitar wail. But though the upward trajectory is predictable, the stabbing crescendo is nonetheless awesome in its power and intensity—explosions in the sky indeed (though hard to imagine, that moment might be trumped by the lethal roar stoked halfway through the closing piece “Illuminate My Heart, My Darling”). In actual fact, though, it's the quieter passages where the group impresses as much if not more, as it's in such moments that its compositions' lyrical character comes most vividly to the forefront. When shredded guitars incinerate “We Flood Empty Lakes,” for instance, the firestorm is magnificent but the piece remains just as affecting when a gentle violin and glockenspiel rise from the ashes following the cataclysm. Similarly, the lulling flow the violin and banjo bring to the haunting intro of “A Song for Starlit Beaches” deserves mention, as does the gorgeous hymnal passage that surfaces three-quarters of the way through (Neal's violin playing, one might add, is a constant source of pleasure throughout). The band members are all in their early twenties, so let's hope Enjoy Eternal Bliss earmarks the first stop on what promises to be a multi-album trip worth taking.

October 2007