Múm Loksins Erum Vid Engin (Finally We Are No One)

[Bad Taste; 2002]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: electronica, lo-Fi, IDM, glitch-pop
Others: Sigur Ros, Emilie Simon, Leif Eriksson, Bjork, Dntel

Yesterday Was Dramatic Today is OK, Müm's debut full-length, is a great album. The shards of electronics sprinkled throughout the entire album are both eons from traditional rock and strangely down to earth. Each song is unique and creative, childish and mature, playful and serious-- a near electronic masterpiece that broadened the sonic horizons of the naysayer across the world, or at least to the naysayer who heard it. However, when I found out that the group's latest album was to employ vocals, I slouched in my chair and quietly mumbled to myself, "Fuck dat shit, b." What's worse is that it was to be sung in English! I don't remember sleeping much that night.

You see, I was scared, scared of what might become of yet another amazing Icelandic group. I hoped and prayed that the vocals would not normalize the songs. I hoped and prayed that the music would not become second in command to the vocals, a mere backdrop for ridiculous lyrics and verse-chorus-verse song structures-- another Emiliana Torrini, if you will.

But to my delight, I discovered an Icelandic version released by Bad Taste (Fat Cat released the domesticated Finally We Are No One), and also to my delight, the vocals on the album are not only used more as an instrument, but are incredibly beautiful. Sure, maybe I prefer instrumental songs when listening to this type of music, but how can I complain when the vocals are so unique and irresistibly cute? And how can I complain when the singing is used sparingly instead of structurally?

Though, at first, I was taken back by the vocals. I was disappointed that the album's rhythms became a bit streamlined as compared to Yesterday Was Dramatic. The beats are just not as inventive and transcendent as on previous outings, but the melodies and instrumental accompaniment have stepped up in terms of variety. It's a sort of give-and-take that has caused the album to be somewhat incomparable to its predecessor; it's different, and it's proud of it. The album doesn't compromise; it's there in all its unrestrained glory, dragging the listener all the way through its dreamlike disposition.

Twin sisters Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir are responsible for the chipmunk crooning. They sing in tandem throughout a significant portion of the album, sometimes with words and sometimes just humming. A substantial amount of the album is still instrumental ("Ekki vera hrædd, &Thorn;ü ert bara með augun lokuð," "Á bakvið tvær hæðir,,,,sundlaug"); the vocals are a mere added timbre to its colorful array of sounds.

Now, as much as I don't want to compare Müm to its Icelandic brethrens, Sigur Ros and Bjork, I have come to the assumed conclusion that they were either influenced directly by the two, or there's something in that Icelandic cod that procures the best out of the Icelandic culture. They seem to have taken the histrionic grandeur of Sigur Ros with songs like "Sveitin milli sanda," while "Við erum með landakort af píanóinu" takes a cue from Bjork's synthetic chops on Vespertine. Now, it's nearly impossible to actually "sound" like the two acclaimed groups, but if any group has a chance, Müm is that group, which is more a compliment than anything else.

The greatest thing Müm has retained from Yesterday Was Dramatic is their ability to create incredibly intricate music, while still sounding effortlessly simple. The basic melodies are at their most primitive, while the sounds surrounding interweave with one another in a complex pattern. The group juxtaposes the elements together in an obvious yet elegant manner, never coming off too forthright or humble. Their crafting of melody and rhythm is both astonishing and conventional.

All in all, Loksins Erum Vid Engin (Finally We Are No One) is a success. While Yesterday Was Dramatic evokes a technical, creative feeling, Loksins evokes a warm, almost heavenly feeling. If the vocals are still troubling you, just stand back and pretend that this is their debut album; trust me, it'll help. As with a lot of sophomore releases, each one comes with expectations and preconceptions of what the music "should" or "might" sound like. But Müm doesn't have to rehash the same album in order to resonate the same idea it made with Yesterday Was Dramatic: music can be just as experimental as it is beautiful.

1. Svefn/sund
2. Grasi vaxin göng
3. Við erum með landakort af píanóinu
4. Ekki vera hrædd, &Thorn;ü ert bara með augun lokuð
5. Á bakvið tvær hæðir,,,,sundlaug
6. K/hálft óhljóð
7. Nü snýr óttinn aftur
8. Sundlaug í buskanum
9. Ég finn ekki fyrir hendinni á mér, en &Thorn;að er allt í
10. Loksins erum við engin
11. Sveitin milli sanda