There´s been an inordinate number of Icelandic records recently in my album of the week category, continuing this week. As I´ve said before, the number of talented musicians that this very small country has produced is absolutely staggering. Even if you choose to forget about Björk there´s so much more to like. Gus Gus, The Leaves, Hjaltalín, Múm, Ólöf Arnalds, Seabear, Sin Fang and Of monsters and men. This said, don´t get me started on older stuff like The Sugarcubes, Tappi Tikarass and Purrkur Pillnikk.
Every time a new Gus Gus album is released, I buy it only to be reminded of the glory of the old days. The newest one “Mexico” released 2014 is actually quite good, but still can´t compete with their early material. Second album “Polydistortion” from 1997 is one of those records that doesn´t seem to age like it should. Now, 17 years on, it still comes across like something fresh and adventureous. Some music magazine or other made me aware of this group which otherwise would definitely have passed under my radar, and the sounds they made were absolutely mind-blowing. Melodic electronica sexy as hell with a mysterious edge.
Opener “OH (edit)” is an atmospheric prelude to what´s to come, namely the polyrhythmic “Gun” complete with soulfull lyrics and bubbling synthesizers. “Believe” takes the concept further with its propulsive beats and understated melody. “Polyesterday” combines elements of jazzy improvisation with electronic soul into an elegantly flowing rendition of the dance music of the future. The falsetto singing of “Barry” combines blues harmonica and piano with a dance beat into something decisively new. “Cold breath ´79” blends aetherial female vocals with sparse electronic rhythms and keyboard structures into a bobbing, swaying piece of sheer beauty.
“Why?” goes into jazz and blues territory, with eloquent piano and heartfelt female vocals. “Remembrance” returns to the electronic side of the band, while still being Gus Gus´s version of an emotional ballad. Sparse “Is Jesus your pal?” has vocals from Emilíana Torrini of Lord of the Rings fame, desolate and enchanting. Closer “Purple” is an instrumental also present in a different version on later album “Gus Gus vs T-World”.
So, what we´re getting here is a seminal album by a band at the peak of their abilities, everything still remaining fresh and new. Next record “This is normal” might have more of their all-time hits, but this is the one I truly love.