Hekla ‎– Á

Who the hell is Hekla Magnúsdóttir? Well, she plays the theramin, and who doesn’t love the theramin?………………………. Don’t answer that.

If you had to categorise her debut release you might very well go for something like ‘Icelandic ambient’, but no, she doesn’t really fit in that, she produces rather haunting electronica overlayed with a delicate voice, haunting even. It’s a strange listen and and times there is a creepiness about it but there is also great beauty. For me, one of the key indicators of whether this album is any good or not is whether I’m constantly thinking “Teramin, Theramin, Theramin” all the time as I’m listening to it, and I don’t. Some of the sounds and transitions between notes are unusual but she plays the instrument with such skill that there is no suggestion that there is anything gimmicky here. Hekla is an extremely skilled musician who can make her instrument bend to her will.

Obvioulsy I’ve made some assumptions here, so just in case, here is a quick rundown on what a theramin is:

The theremin (/ˈθɛrəmɪn/; originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone, thereminophone or termenvox/thereminvox) is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer). It is named after its inventor, Léon Theremin (Лев Термен), who patented the device in 1928.

The instrument’s controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

The sound of the instrument is often associated with eerie situations. Thus, the theremin has been used in movie soundtracks such as Miklós Rózsa’s Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, Bernard Herrmann’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Justin Hurwitz’s First Man, as well as in theme songs for television shows such as the ITV drama Midsomer Murders. The theremin is also used in concert music (especially avant-garde and 20th- and 21st-century new music), and in popular music genres such as rock.

If you wanted to buy one you can pay as little as £40 but the go to instrument appears to be by Moog and it is about £300.

I bought the album a few weeks ago, it was discounted to about £11 I think from £20 ish and this is the thought process that made me decide to buy it:

It’s quite cheap, oh Icelandic, Theramin! It will be terrible or brilliant. I’ll get it.

Tracklist

Hatur4:43
Í Hring4:22
Muddle4:29
Heyr Himna Smiður1:52
Arms4:19
Ekki Er Allt Gull Sem Glóir3:25
A Way4:13
Í Felum2:42
Slit2:40
Stondum4:30

múm ‎– Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy

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I like múm a lot but their records aren’t readily available new and the used market it expensive. All I have is one album and a 12″ EP. Still, they are both good. Before we go any further, and just in case you have never heard them, here is a track from this album:

Ok, I accept this is not for everybody. The video has 3.8k likes and 1.1k dislikes on youtube, which is a pretty bad ratio for a music video, but it is all rather left field and, frankly, who cares, it isn’t as bad as this:

bieber

Completely irrelevant comparison, you’re welcome.

So, Múm are Icelandic, it’s pronounced Moom in case you wondered, and were formed in 1997 by Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason, who were joined by twin sisters Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir. According to Kristín, the band’s name was not intended to mean anything. Gyða left the band to return to her studies after the release of Finally We Are No One. In early 2006, Kristín also left the band, although it was not officially announced until 23 November of that year. With only Tynes and Smárason remaining in the group, a large group of new musicians were brought on board: guitarist/vocalist/violinist Ólöf Arnalds, trumpet/keyboard player Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson, vocalist/cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir, percussionist Samuli Kosminen, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mr. Silla.  The new collective of musicians recorded their fourth album during 2006; This one, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy which released on 24 September 2007. Yes, always up to date me, just 11 years since its release.

There is only one official video related to this album but a couple of people made their own, which are below for your listening and viewing pleasure.

One of múm’s principal attractions for me is their approach to orchestration. No instrument seems to be off the table, from a parping accordion, a soft piano, a razor sharp violin harmonic. These can all appear in the same track but despite the potential pitfall of unlistenable cacophony, there always seems to be room in the soundscape they are creating for what they include. It is not often that one can suggest that music ‘Sparkles’, but with múm is seems an appropriate description, particularly on this album as they take acoustic instruments and electronic and merge them seamlessly together as wood growing into metal and becoming indistinct from each other.

 

Inside the gatefold cover there is a little pouch in which a 7″ single has been slipped containing the tracks ‘Guilty Rocks’ and ‘Winter (What We Never Were After All)’ which are two tracks that ar eon the CD version, so I assume they didn’t want to stretch everything out over a double album and went for this method instead, it works, the 7″ feels like a bonus. 

Tracklist

LP-A1 Blessed Brambles
LP-A2 A Little Bit Sometimes
LP-A3 They Made Frogs Smoke ‘Til They Exploded
LP-A4 Those Eyes Are Berries
LP-B1 Moon Pulls
LP-B2 Marmelade Fires
LP-B3 Rhuubarbidoo
LP-B4 Dancing Behind My Eyelids
LP-B5 School Song Misfortune
LP-B6 I Was Her Horse
7″-C Guilty Rocks
7″-D Winter (What We Never Were After All)

Rating: 8.8