splendid > reviews > 4/28/2004
Summer Make Good

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Weeping Rock, Rock"

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Múm were never a "typical" glitch pop act, if you can call anything about glitch pop "typical". On Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK, their medium was digital processing, but it was emotion they were channelling. Múm painted their canvas in bitter and sweet, dabbing on texture and nuance until the subtle strains of pop sensibility required minor effort to exploit. But when you could find the music's beating heart, it ceased to be a pretty sonic experiment. What it was, I'm not sure, but I've wondered about that ever since I first heard these Icelanders.

Summer Make Good gets closer to answering my questions, though I'm guessing that Múm will never truly be figured out (not by their fans, or even their own members). Now chopped down to a trio -- Gyõa Valtýsdóttir has left the band to study the cello -- Múm continue to evolve, bringing new faces into their flock while tweaking their already inimitable organic process. Whereas earlier material represented a bird's eye view of a band learning the ins and outs of electronic music-making, Summer Make Good blurs the distinctions of digital and analog to the point of opening new categories (as opposed to artists like DNTEL or Laub, who wear binaries on the sleeves of their laptop-punching digits).

Mellow and deeply introspective, Múm typically come across as a bunch of sad sacks, but that's missing the point. The trio explore a rainbow of feeling, where hope creeps into melancholy and joy in the same way that orange connects yellow and red. "Weeping Rock, Rock" sets that tone, with Kristin Valtısdóttir's shy vocal more prominently out front than before, her strengthened confidence leading an orchestra of "real" instruments: melodica, glockenspiel, accordion, trumpet and so on. And the wonderful textures -- ever a staple of Múm's menu -- remain, though they are harder to parse. Credit that to new methods and production acumen, vintage amplifiers and gramophone speakers replacing much of the tried and true DSP plugin science. Summer Make Good is physical rather than virtual; the music, with an unprecedented warmth, is in front of you, tickling your chin. Later tracks -- "Islands Of The Children's Children", the upcoming single "Nightly Cares" -- add rock elements via authentic-sounding drum kits; equal parts dirge and lullaby, their haunting melodies possess an innocence unaffected by convention, their artistic approach sparklingly pure and dazzling.

To listen is to be present at the location and time that the music was written and recorded; Múm's base of operation was one of two remote lighthouses off coastal Iceland. You picture the lonely retreat standing over the tide, three human beings secluded amid peeling surroundings... you just about feel the harsh wind. Literally. Múm kept the environmental din intact (the opener, "Hú Hviss -- A Ship", is pretty much a field recording), and, while it's not going to be obvious, the rattling windows and gush of sea spray colors are an intrinsic part of Summer Make Good. After glowing reviews of their debut, Múm have soared past and avoided anything that could be called a sophomore slump. Judging by Summer Make Good, the arc of improvement is still curving upward, and their trajectory is still delightfully unknown.



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