Gus Gus could never be accused of treading water. The Icelandic concern, 22 years young and on to their 10th album, has just one man who has been there through thick and thin. On this occasion Biggi Veira, ever-present in the group’s intriguing history, is joined by Daníel Ágúst as the last pair left standing, with Högni having left for pastures new at Erased Tapes.
Happily the main fuselage of the band remains intact, and is revealed here to be in fully working order. Lies Are More Flexible keeps the band’s first principles of making meaningful songs to dance to in the first half, while proving in the second instrumental half that the music behind those songs has just as much substance.
The sound is that bit sparser, but it suits Ágúst’s moody vocals. The grooves are never less than classy, from the slick Lifetime to the epic Featherlight, the slow builder which begins the album with gently building arpeggios. Even though the pair are relative veterans in the electronic music stakes, they continue to find new and subtly different ways of presenting thoughts and music.
The cool Fireworks is a great example, where the chosen riff oscillates through different, open ended harmonies, Ágúst “reaching out for the twilight” in his distant vocal. Towards Storm, meanwhile, acts as a prelude to Fuel, which ushers in a succession of synths that flicker in the half light. It sounds great through headphones, with the customary attention to detail in the glossy production.
As with previous Gus Gus albums the majority of tracks are extended and carefully structured, setting an atmosphere before the vocals come in, displaying all the natural peaks and troughs of the best house music. There are elements of trance in the loops and riffs that play around the vocal, and these are cleverly written, functioning in the background but coming to the middle of the dancefloor for those all important hands-in-the-air moments.
There is something of a solitary air to the vocals this time around, the sense of relationship and life decisions being made. These come to a head in Lifetime, where Ágúst sings over airy synths of how “my mind is made up”. Things sharpen up with Lies Are More Flexible, a more acidic, 303-type line ducking in and out of the central pitch. Even in an instrumental track like this, the resolute melodic patterns speak volumes.
Gus Gus remain one of electronic music’s most flexible entities, where band members come and go and record labels change, but the quality of the songwriting and production remains at a level most bands could only dream of. Biggi and Daníel Ágúst are veterans in name only, for in Lies Are More Flexible they write and sing as though it’s their first record together. There may only be eight tracks here, but with Gus Gus it is once again a case of less most definitely meaning more.