Album Reviews

Múm – Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy

(Fat Cat) UK release date: 24 September 2007

This is the first new record from the Icelandic quartet for three years, and looks to reinforce the reputation the band have held for dreamy electronica, well constructed yet with a childlike simplicity that gives their music a refreshing unpredictability.

Of course while they’ve been away compatriots Sigur Ros have trained the spotlight ever more intently on the music of their homeland, but the two remain stylistically some way apart – even though on closer inspection they have plenty of qualities in common.

One of Múm’s principal weapons is their way with orchestration. No instrument is too much, nor does it come as a surprise to hear a parping accordion, a soft piano, a razor sharp violin harmonic. And yet while these sounds may occur in the same track, often with the addition of children singing, voices softly intoning, strings sighing, there always seems to be room for each sound, each musical statement, no matter how brief.

Múm can be subtle or brash, and sometimes the two coincide, as in the wonderfully named single They Made Frogs Smoke Til They Exploded, where a stodgy breakbeat tries but fails to obliterate a single, plaintive keyboard line. And while this may occasionally be a temptation that gets the better of them, tracks such as Moon Pulls show that they know when to step off the gas and submit to blissful meanderings.

Moon Pulls works principally because of its soft choir and mellow upright piano sound, but the electronics also sparkle here, with or without their acoustic counterparts, the detail in the arrangements implying this album has been a long time in the making – either that, or the quality control process afterwards has been arduous.

Sometimes the journey feels like a drawn out ritual, the softly sighing refrains from the semi-choir drawing you under their spell, before they cut off for another musical departure. Usually these are engineered in such a way as not to harm the overall listening experience, and both foreground and background listening are equally rewarded – though singing along to the lyrics might be a bridge too far.

Preaching to the converted won’t be necessary – they’ll buy this and love it. Yet if you haven’t become acquainted with the fragile delights of this band, then now is the time to do it. They’re akin to a musical hot water bottle.

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