Album Reviews

Múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know

(Morr) UK release date: 24 August 2009

Múm - Sing Along To Songs You Don't Know Iceland’s Múm – the name seemingly a made-up word with no real-life meaning – are often described as pioneers of folktronica, their previous five albums since their inception in 2000 displaying much of their homeland’s trademark quirk and charm.

This time round sees a soft, almost restrained collection of tracks, perhaps making up in mellifluous calm what it lacks – sometimes – in the fire and dazzle that characterised much of 2007’s Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy. The drowsy vocals, particularly apparent in the album’s opening and closing tracks (If I Were A Fish, Ladies Of The New Century), the breathiness of A River Don’t Stop To Breathe, and the soporific repetition used on several tracks all contribute to the creation of a discernible and distinct atmosphere. This is a band that can create and maintain a world of its own, with its own internal logic, then gently share it with the listener.

The key theme here seems to be water. From the opener’s ponderings on the likelihood of romance between a fish and a seashell, to the underwater sounds running through tracks like the excellent Sing Along, to numerous references in titles (A River Don’t Stop To Breathe) or lyrics (“In these words we drown”, “Bathwater tides come in”, “The last shapes of someone /Who swims in the dark deep lake” and so on), a liquid ebb and flow pervades the whole album.

This works well to nicely offset the otherwise occasional obscurity or nonsensical nature of the lyrics – “Hullabbalabaluu / Say kings of Avalon”, for example, or much of the shivery, unsettling Kay-Ray-Ku-Ku-Ko-Kex – and contributes much to its gentle appeal.

As one would expect from the genre descriptions, the band mix musical elements judiciously and expertly. Bleeps and glitches (The Smell Of Today Is Like Breast Milk In The Wind), strange synthesised “boing boing” noises and underwater gurgles combine with that oldest of old fashioned instruments the harpsichord (If I Were A Fish), violins and violas (syrupy on A River Don’t Stop To Breathe, orchestral on Illuminated, beautiful, sombre and evocative on Blow Your Nose), piano and brass.

The production sometimes frustrates by creating a sheen, polish and sweetness that is just blander than a band that is clearly this experimental and creative ought to be sounding, with the worst culprits being Prophecies and Reversed Memories andThe Smell Of Today… Elsewhere there is the occasional surprising country twang, most notably on If I Were A Fish, with its steel guitar and lovelorn air.

In short, then, these twelve tracks make for diverting and beguiling company for the 50 or so minutes spent with them. Like a cool glass of(what else?) water they can be sometimes bland yet at other times crisp and refreshing, and are more often vital than otherwise. Take a slurp.

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More on Múm
Múm – Smilewound
Múm – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
Múm: “Having more people is a bigger party, a bigger dialogue of creative minds” – Interview
Loop 2009: Day 2 @ Various Venues, Brighton
Múm – Summer Make Good