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Finally We Are No One (FatCat)

Wednesday, Aug 7 2002
Bred in a notoriously cold clime, the Icelandic quartet Múm seems like the perfect candidate for making "intelligent dance music" -- that rubric of frosty electronica pioneered by the likes of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. But in contrast to its forebears (and fellow homelanders Sigur Rós, whose atmospheric indie rock brings to mind glaciers and black ice), Múm crafts ambient pop suffused with playfulness and warmth.

Like its 2000 debut, Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK, the group's latest effort, Finally We Are No One, combines the digitally programmed clicks, bleeps, and pops of Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Thóreyjarson Smárason with the cello, accordion, and glockenspiel playing of twin sisters Gyda and Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir. By mixing familiar sounds in a singularly innovative way, Múm creates a collage that's both soothing and strange.

Several tunes on Finally recall summertime. The brief but inspired instrumental "Behind Two Hills ... a Swimming Pool" layers hypnotic high-tech effects over a sound reminiscent of a gently lapping tide, while the delicate, meandering "Faraway Swimmingpool" features a melody that bubbles in and out, delivering the same muted effect as listening to music underwater.

Even when not submerged in swimming references, Múm rarely ventures into the dark territory visited by other IDM devotees. "Don't Be Afraid, You Have Just Got Your Eyes Closed" begins with a lighthearted keyboard part and then slowly layers on soft brass and a tropical mix, eventually approximating a soundtrack to a video game in which the objective is to wander dreamily through an amusement park.

The album's most adept stab at traditional songwriting, "Green Grass of Tunnel," showcases the childlike chants of Múm's female faction, who sing like some long-lost relative of helium-voiced chanteuse Alison Shaw of Cranes. Although the English lyrics on this and other songs are often incomprehensible, you can't help but be immersed in the mood -- as if you were watching old, soundless home movies.

Even though Múm has fully embraced the digital age, the band's melodies induce nostalgia for carousels and chlorinated childhood. Despite the group's icy upbringing, Múm infuses an often-chilly genre with a welcome dose of comfort.

About The Author

Nancy Einhart


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