Múm – Smilewound (2013)
Few nationalities have a musical DNA quite as distinctive as the Icelandic. From their frozen isle in the far flung north-west fringes of Europe, a production line of quite remarkable productivity for a country of just over a quarter of a million inhabitants has rolled out one strikingly idiosyncratic band after another, starting with The Sugarcubes back in the late 1980s and continuing right up until the present day with Of Monsters And Men. Iceland’s dramatic geology of lava-belching volcanoes, gushing geysers and vast glaciers is perhaps most frequently associated with the epic majesty of Sigur Rós, but a real sense of place, of unique otherness, can be found in the work of many of their contemporaries too.
Múm are a case in point. For over 15 years they have worked on their own odd brand of twinkling, strangely childlike electronica, at times both cutely endearing and slightly sinister, rather like Boards Of Canada overdosed on Prozac and dumped on a flight to Reykjavik. Their 2001 debut proper, Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK, set the blueprint for their sound, with classically trained twin sister singers Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir sweetly chanting their gossamer melodies over a backdrop of Aphex Twin-influenced beats and kaleidoscopic instrumentation. Over the years, Múm have rarely strayed far from this territory, although a number of line-up changes and some interesting collaborations, for example with the National Dutch Chamber Orchestra, stopped things from going too stale…serialgk