Posted on Sep 8th 2009 01:04 am
06 Tracks. 52mins20secs
Icelandic pop collective GusGus have gone through many changes over the years, with members coming and going and a progressive shift from the resolutely angular pop of their early records, Polydistorition (1997) and This Is Normal (1999) to their more dance-orientated projects of recent years, Attention (2002) and Forever (2007). This trend shows no sign of waning with their latest offering. Having joined the ranks of one of the coolest labels around, Kompakt, GusGus have, with 24/7, pushed deeper into club territory and have almost entirely dropped the pop angle of their songs, which are now developed into long progressive instrumentals upon hang a few relics of lyrics.
GusGus 2009 vintage sees the return of original vocalist Daníel Ágúst to the fore for the whole album for the first time in ten years. While he appeared on both Attention and Forever, his contributions where often restricted to just one song. Here, he features heavily throughout, except on Take Me Baby, sung by Jimi Tenor, and on the massive instrumental Bremen Cowboy. The band’s sound has also become much warmer and dense, as they push their analogue sound right up. The songs often start in quite subdued mode but go on to develop into much stronger pieces in their latter parts, with soundscapes growing into gritty slabs of analogue electronics.
This is particularly the case on Thin Ice, which opens the proceeding on somewhat bare grounds, with Ágúst’s voice the main focal point, but soon, deeper layers of electronics and effects cluster around his voice. As the beat finally kicks in, over three minutes in, things become much more minimal again for a while before gaining momentum as Ágúst’s voice bounces against much rougher layers of electronics. This principle is repeated pretty much on every track here, with various level of intensity. Hateful and On The Job are very similar in both concept and style, sounding almost like two halves of a same idea, but later on Take Me Baby, which features Finn electro-jazz-funkster Jimi Tenor on lead vocals, and Bremen Cowboy, the tone becomes much more incisive. Once again, the two pieces are intricately linked to one another, stemming from a common trunk but, while Tenor’s treated vocals float eerily above the tight soundscapes on the former, the latter, free from any vocal interference, develops into a monumental slab of dirty techno.
The album concludes with the full on version of GusGus’s recent single, Add This Song, an epic eleven and a half minute slice of lush electronic music powered by a swirling riff wrapped around Ágúst’s haunting vocals. There is very little to this song, yet it continuously builds up, gathering debris of electronics on the way which are expertly layered to give an impression of mass. Ágúst re-appears toward the end for a fleeting moment before the track finally disintegrates entirely.
24/7 signals both the return of Daníel Ágúst as main vocalist and a shift toward more atmospheric and stripped down soundscapes. In recent years, the band seemed to have lost some of its natural lustre. This album is not without its faults, most notably on the slightly jaded Hateful, which seems to occasionally lack an internal spark, , but, overall, GusGus show once again moments of sheers genius and manage to pull this off with much panache.