Album Reviews

Einar Örn – Ghostigital

(Honest Jons) UK release date: 8 December 2003

Einar Örn - Ghostigital Take a strong drink and have the painkillers at the ready. This album from one ofIceland’s musical heavyweights will demand that you use at least one of them. The invented word, Ghostigital, perfectly sums up this opus from Einar Örn, formerly rapper with Björk‘s old band, The Sugarcubes, which proves to be an exploration of unusual sounds, utterances and melodies. Be warned though, this is not comfortable music to play while you’re warming your toes in front of the fire…

It’s clear that Einar has been hanging out with a variety of musicians and has taken in a lot of influences. Several names jumped to mind in the course of this album – Cabaret Voltaire, for the sheer virtuosity of the electronic writing; Tricky, especially on the three tracks where rapper Sensational is employed; and Spring Heel Jack, recent purveyors of bleak yet stimulating, improvised musical pictures.

Having listed all those possible influences it cannot be doubted that Örn possesses a vivid imagination when it comes to producing rhythms and soundscapes. Most of Ghostigital could be the incidental music to a demonic movie, particularly in the truly disconcerting vocal hisses of Dirty Fly or the screaming electronica sounds that come with Mess Up.

The opening track Suicide features the rising trumpet star Kaktus, who you’ll be astonished to hear is just 11 years old. Thirsty Fly is an exercise in fractured drum and bass, whilst Drunk Piano is just that – a sinister piano bar artist gatecrashing on to industrial rhythms. The spectre of The Sugarcubes looms large, as does Björk’s Post album, with the booming bass and mechanical noise of Calm Water No. 35 evoking memories of Army Of Me.

Örn conjures some extraordinary sounds in Monday, a seething cauldron of acidic sounds, rather like a trip to a surreal Icelandic dentist. And then if you think that’s mad, the closing Losing It will finish you off, its crosstempo meaning that it can be interpreted as either avery fast drum and bass record or a moderately slow beat packed with fill-ins.

Throughout the album there are several levels on which you can hear the collage of sounds – if you concentrate intensely on the background you’ll hear all sorts of vocal snippets and electronic gadgetry used, while in the foreground there’s snatches of melody, texture or simply noise to latch on to. The music never rests, ploughing relentlessly onwards, and if you’re listening on headphones the effect is even more dramatic and, at times, disturbing.

A challenging listen then, which should particularly appeal to fans of electronic acts such as Squarepusher and Autechre. Of course if you grew up with The Sugarcubes it’s a compulsory listen, but the chances are you’d like it even if you didn’t know who it was.

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