Album Reviews

Múm – Summer Make Good

(FatCat) UK release date: 12 April 2004

Múm - Summer Make Good I can imagine that the exercise of appraising the music of Múm might often involve seeing how long you can go before mentioning that they come from Iceland (26 words for me). Few countries have such a well-defined sound to call their own, and Múm are very much part of that strange island’s gaggle of quirky, melancholic pop merchants.

Indeed, Múm have perhaps looked primarily to their fellow islanders for artistic inspiration, for there are certainly elements of the baby-like innocence of Björk and the E-bow drone of Sigur Rós in their sound. Another key influence on their earlier work (there are two full-length albums that precede this) was the mad knob-twiddling electronica of Aphex Twin, and Múm certainly match his maverick spirit of experimentation too.

For the incredibly inappropriately titled Summer Make Good (Grease this certainly isn’t), the overall mood has been taken down several (more) notches on the melancholy scale. This isn’t entirely surprising when one discovers that the album was written and recorded in two remote lighthouses surrounded by open seas and rugged terrain at two isolated Iceland sites.

The isolation was such that communicating with the outside world involved a three-hour mountain climb to get mobile reception, and sea-crossings were required to obtain provisions. The result is a beautiful musical evocation of this sheer desolation, where the sharp digital base that underpinned their earlier work has been replaced with a more earthly, organic sound – although perhaps “earthly” isn’t the best word to use as this all sounds like it was made by a particularly strange set of alien life forms.

An early highlight is the second piece Weeping Rock, Rock, where a plucked violin contrasts remarkably with the rumbling dirge of the rhythm, and an impossibly beautiful little child-like vocal chanting does the rest. It sounds like rocks weeping, really. It’s all quite superb stuff.

Single Nightly Cares follows hot (or perhaps cold) on its heels, with lo-fi violin wails over lo-fi brushed drums and, erm, lo-fi bubbling keyboard noises drifting pleasingly alongside.

I could babble on and on in similar detail, such is the rich array of analogue weirdness going on here, all richly and cleverly laced with a barely-there mix of melodica, glockenspiel, accordion, trumpet, viola, pump organ, banjo, and loads of really odd instruments. Far better, though, is to just turn off the lights, lie back peacefully and let Summer Make Good transport you somewhere completely and utterly remarkable – unless perhaps you live in a remote, disused Icelandic lighthouse.

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Múm – Summer Make Good