Finally We Are No One
Múm's second album is guaranteed to offend the IDM clique who warmed to the band's glitchy debut, Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today is Okay. Where that album brought acoustic elements to a primarily minimalist electronica sound, this album appears to approach the material the other way around: the focus seem to be on the "actual" instruments, while the laptops are used primarily to create subdued rhythms and subtle dynamics. More Sigur Ros than Matmos, if you like, even though traces of both are to be found here. The extensive use of accordion, harmonium and other instruments brings to mind Bogdan Raczynski's last effort, but unlike that, Múm's vision is vertical rather than horizontal, so to speak, exploring their sound in its extensive manifold rather than in depth and variations on basic themes.
And so, this is at times a wildly diverse album brought together, it seems, mainly by a sense of basic melodic writing and the lush atmospherics running throughout. Múm do manage to create a sense of wholeness and completion here, but the album still suffers from uneven songwriting and at times an annoying unobtrusiveness. So that while everything moves along like a lazy summer breeze, there's nothing here to stir the listener and to kick him or her around a bit. That is not to say the feeling of ease and calm isn't a pleasant one. In the childhood nostalgia of tracks like "We Have a Map of the Piano" and the lovely "I Can't Feel My Hand Any More, It's Allright, Sleep Still" there's even a sense of profound poignancy and genuine sadness. However, interludes like the two "Swimmingpool" tracks as well as a track like "Green Grass of Tunnel" will serve as effective examples of Múm's fundamental problem when embracing pop to the extent of trying to cross over -- too often their melodies just aren't good enough. They may be aiming towards achieving a certain naive pop mode, a la Belle and Sebastian (two of the Múm's -- twin sisters Kristin Anna and Gyda Valtisdottir -- were last seen on the cover of the Scottish popsters' Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant album), but naivete doesn't, or shouldn't, equal laziness.
That said, Múm deserves kudos for exploring and evolving, and for not making the same album twice. The best songs on here are nothing short of beautiful and intimately capturing, like the drifting "K/Half Noise" and the stunning closer "The Land Between Solar Systems." And the entire album -- including the less impressive material -- have a quietly endearing quality to it, making it hard to actually dislike in any particular way. However, in their effort to combine lo-fi pop with ethereal laptop sounds, Múm haven't made it too easy on themselves, and when they fail, the cracks are all the more readily visible for that. One is left hoping the next one will be even better, even more considered, and with none of the lazy solutions that sometimes turn this into an oddly uneven listening experience.
Fat Cat Records: http://www.fat-cat.co.uk