MÚM: Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy (Fat-Cat Records)


Posted on Oct 9th 2007 01:07 am

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MÚM: Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy

Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy
Fat-Cat Records 2007
14 Tracks. 44mins05secs

The topography of Icelandic outfit Múm is as chaotic and unpredictable as that of their native island. From the band’s early days as a quartet dealing primarily with crystalline electronica to vastly acoustic landscapes explored as a trio, to their most recent incarnation, as an enchanted seven-piece ensemble. Following the departure of singer Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir in early 2005, founding members Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason focused on a commission by the Holland Festival, working on a performance piece based on the work of avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis with the National Dutch Chamber Orchestra. Both Tynes and Smárason also spent time working on various side projects, including a solo album for the former, under the name of Illi Vill, and writing for the latter.

Now counting no less than five new members, including friends Ólöf Arnalds on violin, viola, guitar and vocals, Eiríkur Orri Olafsson on trumpet, pianette and moog, Hildur Gudnadottir on cello and vocals, multi-instrumentist and vocalist Mr.Silla, and drummer and percussionist Samuli Kosminen, originally from Finland, Múm have created with Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy their most colourful and contrasted piece of work. The delicate arrangements and breathless female vocals have been replaced with chaotic, yet ambitious, orchestrations and strong vocal parts. Recent single They Made Frogs Smoke Til They Exploded illustrates the shift in the band’s sound. Kicking off with a childish sing-song, gritty electronics and a harmonica, the song rapidly gains body as a thundery drum and quirky male/female vocals pave the way for the full formation to be set in motion. Opening song Blessed Brambles is equally as spellbinding in its varied ornamental instrumentation and melodic flourishes. The moving melody on Dancing Behind My Eyelids, perhaps the most openly pop moment here, curls around a subtle typewriter beat and surprising Gaelic arabesques, only interrupted by a discharge of Aphex-like electronics in its latter part.

Elsewhere, the mood is more restrained. Whether it is on the superb Moon Pulls, with its voluptuous dark swathes of piano and occasional plucked or strummed acoustic guitar providing a stunning backdrop for the main melody, or on Rhuubardidoo, which sounds like a long forgotten piece taken from The Magic Roundabout and played by the Beatles circa Sergeant Pepper, or on the mournful I Was Her Horse, Múm constantly juggle between ornate melancholy and tender psychedelia. And on Guilty Rocks, they are caught red handed playfully revisiting, or so it seems, a fraction of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. The album comes to a close with the magnificent Winter (What We Never Were After All), which, with piano undertones, vast choir formation and achingly perfect melody, sounds like Ennio Morricone taking on the sub-arctic Icelandic landscape.

All this however doesn’t go against what Tynes and Smárason spent years perfecting with the Valtýsdóttir sisters. If anything, the band’s original vision is reinforced by the rich sonic landscapes in which their songs are left to wander these days. Very much like Efterklang’s wonderful Parades, Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy is an intensely poetic and fascinating record. It is like Múm have finally become the festive orchestra they were always meant to be.


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2 Responses to “MÚM: Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy (Fat-Cat Records)”

  1. […] Smárason to head a constantly changing line up, until the current one came together to record  Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy, released on Fat-Cat in 2007. The album signalled quite a radical shift in musical direction as […]

  2. […] of twin sisters Gyða and Kristin Anna Valtýsdóttir and a collective of musicians and singers for Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy (2007)  and Sing Along… (2009), following the successive departures of the Valtýsdóttir […]