Iceland must be one hell of a quiet place. It would seem that every piece of music coming from Iceland could soothe the most savage of beasts. So quaint and dreamy is most of Iceland’s output you have to wonder if there is some kind of valium problem rife in the country.
Bang Gang is essentially the labour of love of Barði Jóhannsson, a particularly gifted musician, songwriter, and producer. Initial attempts at being Iceland’s premier surf band were quickly aborted (the sea was probably a little too cold for them) and Jóhannsson went on to produce his own peculiar brand of pop music.
Placing Bang Gang in a genre is not a particularly easy task. Certainly there are elements of fellow countrymen Sigur Rós and Múm traceable in a lot of the songs here, but to dismiss Bang Gang as just another Icelandic sound-alike band would be to do them a disservice. Saying that, Jóhannsson is a rather contrary soul (he once covered a David Lynch tune from Eraserhead) and he has taken the trip hop blueprint laid down by the likes of Tricky and Massive Attack and has added his own unique dark vision.
These songs are essentially pop fare, but somewhere along the line they have become twisted and ethereal. Jóhannsson achieves this by keeping his vocal interventions to a bare minimum, preferring instead to allow a number of female voices to take the lead. Long time Jóhannsson collaborator Ester Talia Casey appears on opening track Inside and sets the tone for the album. A fragile voice swept along on understated drum loops and orchestration, it’s laid back, beautiful, heartbreaking and yet somehow still life-affirming, despite an evident bleakness.
Forward And Reverse is a duet between Jóhannsson and guest vocalist Karen Ann. Jóhannsson’s voice is hardly present, but Karen Ann’s breathless performance is the stuff dreams are made of. Jóhannsson’s presence is made known by the shift of mood in the middle of the song. A raucous sounding guitar solo suddenly imposes itself into what would otherwise be a very gentle and soothing song. A well-placed Fender in the works, it shouldn’t sound right, but like most of Jóhannsson’s interventions they have a weird kind of logic.
Even his cover of Stop In The Name Of Love has a loveable eccentricity about it – despite sounding like something Harry Nilsson refused to add to the soundtrack of Midnight Cowboy.
Something Wrong is probably one of the most inaccurately titled albums you could ever find. It would be on the playlist of the coffee shop you find yourself in at the end of every relationship, and it would seem like something so right.