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Tag: mum band

A Lush, Symphonic Art-Rock Album From Gyda Valtysdottir

The last time that cellist Gyda Valtysdottir was on this page, it was the dead of this past February and at that point, her most recent release was a celebration of her fellow Icelandic composers. On her new album Ox – streaming at Bandcamp – the Mum cellist makes a halfway return to artsy, invitingly dreamy, atmospheric rock, retaining the orchestral sweep of her previous effort, Epicycle II.

The opening piece is Alphabet, a slowly unwinding, vast seascape, strings and winds soaring warmly overhead. Valtysdottir sings in cautious English in her distinctive, whispery high soprano.

A conspiratorial spoken-word piece set to densely orchestrated, opaque trip-hop, the second song, Black Swan comes across as symphonic Radiohead.

Dreamy vocals waft over a simple guitar loop and icy piano as the vampy In Corde gathers steam, up to a swaying, hypnotic orchestral crescendo. Cute Kittens Lick Cream is a peaceful instrumental tableau with steady piano amid the mist, flutist Alex Sopp adding whimsical flurries at the end. Riffs diverge, flicker in and out of the ether in Miracle, the most atmospheric track here.

Individual instrumental voices peep and burst up through the mist in Prism as a steady, circling rhythm develops. In Heavenly Piracy, Valtysdottir sets surreal, vaguely assaultive spoken word over a slowly coalescing trip-hop groove. Is that lyric “Bite me rightfully?”

With dissociative harp and shifting string textures, the brief Tell It evokes a broken music box. There’s a return to immersive angst and also more lavish sweep in Amaying, the album’s final cut.

Video Dump Day: Emptying the Tank

One final day of videos and singles and then there’ll be a brand-new New York City live music calendar up here. That’s why all these videos! It literally takes days to pull the calendar together, which explains why so many videos and such have been stockpiled here over the past month. More concerts and albums coming on October 2. Til then:

Mike Rimbaud is one of the surprisingly few artists who realize that in a lot of respects, we’ve gone back to an age of singles instead of albums. That’s not to say that people don’t make albums anymore: he does that, too. His coolest single of late is The Ballad of Anthony Weiner, which does its best to humanize (well, semi-humanize) a serial sexter. And it’s not just joke-rock – that’s a neat, slinky latin soul groove he’s got going (itunes). The other one is Learning More About Less, a savage slap upside the head of teeenage textards and faceboogers (youtube). But all is not lost, Mike: the new generation is off Facebook, pays with cash instead of credit cards and is gaining traction for an overthrow of the surveillance state!

Another quintessentially New York group, the noir chamber pop duo Charming Disaster, serenade the virtues of public transportation with their East River Ferry Waltz (bandcamp).

Biggest news of the day is that snarling, twin-guitar Paisley Underground revivalists Mud Blood & Beer are offering their brilliant latest album The Sweet Life as a free download. A lot of this stuff is just as good and menacing as the Dream Syndicate or True West (bandcamp). They’re at the Way Station at 9 on 10/9.

Certain General guitarist Phil Gammage also has a noir thing going on much of the time. He’s got a new single, Giveaway (soundcloud).

Songwriter Melaena Cadiz offers up Bluestem Grass, a collaboration with another paisley underground type, Scott Collberg on dobro and other stringed instruments. It’s a gorgeous rock tune disguised as bluegrass from her single-a-month project (bandcamp).

And Icelandic band Mum have a pretty chamber trip-hop tune, Toothwheels, just out as a 7″ vinyl single (youtube).

Trippy, Quirky Icelandic Rock from Mum

It’s tempting to say something like, “Oh, those crazy Icelanders, with their funny fractured English, one minute they’re all about weird sound effects, the next they’re doing all this somber gazing-at-the-ocean ambient stuff.” Obviously, that’s a stereotype and it’s true less often than not. But Icelandic band Mum’s new album Smilewound is a lot like that. The album title is as enigmatic as the music often is- is “wound” a noun or a verb? It could go either way, through the group’s icily trippy blend of quirky chamber pop and trip-hop.

Radiohead is the obvious influence, but where Radiohead uses electronics for the sake of menace, Mum sprinkle them throughout their songs with a grin. Some of these songs sound like Tom Tom Club with more modern toys; others evoke chamber pop bands like Edison Woods, but with more of a techy feel. “We’re all toothwheels in the mouth machine,” one of the women in the band announces in the first song, a trip-hop number anchored on the low end by bass synth, pizzicato strings dancing overhead. By contrast, Underwater Snow builds from simple, resonant, minimalist piano chords to a surreal blend of C&W balladry, trip-hop and chamber pop, with some droll, bubbly Baba O’Reilly synth thrown in toward the end.

When Girls Collide builds from a mechanical dancefloor thud to a more anthemic dreampop swirl; likewise, Slow Down juxtaposes lushness against minimalism, dreamy vocals against a steady trip-hop pulse. Candlestick starts out like a video game theme and then introduces a series of truly bizarre electronic percussion effects, like a 21st century Spike Jones. Then they bring hints of menace back with One Smile and its music-box theme. Then Eternity Is the Wait Between Breaths takes the music box theme and weird faux gamelan percussion in a more surrealistically comedic direction.

The Colorful Stabwound sounds like mid-80s Cure (the darker side of that band, anyway) taken ten years forward in time with coy female vocals. Sweet Impressions evokes Clare & the Reasons with its lively, whimsical tempo shifts and enigmatic lyrics: “screaming through a grassy meadow” ??? Likewise, Time to Scream and Shout isn’t exactly what the title suggests: it’s a lullaby (and possibly a reference to the disastrous Wall Street-engineered run on the nation’s currency back in 2008). The album ends with Whistle (with Kylie), more of a straight-up pop song than anything else here, with an attractively lush, baroque-tinged string outro. Sometimes funny, sometimes pensive and always psychedelic, the album gives your mind plenty of places to drift to.