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Múm - Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy

Released on FatCat Records, 9/24/07

For a decade, the Icelandic collective Múm has haunted the space between childhood and adulthood, chirping choir melodies over quiet electronic compositions. Múm's work stands up to distinguished doppelgangers include Animal Collective, Sigur Rós, and Tortoise. Like these groups, Múm makes the atypical sound innocent and inviting.

Múm returns with Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy, a solid continuation of things past. The record starts with an irregular guitar plucking soon bolstered by piano, keyboards, percussive glitches, and flute stabs. This is the first half-minute of "Blessed Brambles", the lead track. The tone is set: from tiny flutters of uncertainty burst huge, confident compositions.

This gift-basket of sounds remains consistent throughout Go Go Smear. As the orchestral flourishes combine with the childishness, the songs sound more and more cinematic. The tracks "A Little Bit Sometimes" and "School Song Misfortune" lift accordion right off Yann Tiersen's soundtrack for the 2001 film Amélie. Later, "Marmelade Fires" begins like the theme from Chariots Of Fire interpreted by Mark Mothersbaugh. These moments work. In a sense Múm is much like Amelie -- or one of those odd Wes Anderson characters: shy and quiet, but intricate and complicated.

The vocals are challenging at times, though most Múm songs rely sparingly on voice. Before this record, Múm relied on the soft tenor of Kristín Valtýsdóttir. She's replaced by layered male voices, which rarely have much to say. On "Brambles" -- the first track --Múm sings: "Bless the weeds that grow beyond. Just like the rain and dust appear. Bless the does that get too fat. Let's kiss the boys who pee in mud." Whatever.

In music this meticulous, voice is meant to help the unusual structural arrangements crest and climax. When this doesn't happen, as on the poor Portishead imitation "Guilty Rocks," the results are boring, no matter how lush the instrumentation. It doesn't help that "Guilty Rocks" seems to be about incontinence: "Your pants fall to the ground. They're filled with guilty rocks." Whoops!

First grade impressionism aside, Go Go Smear consistently finds that space between Icelandic contemporaries Björk and Sigur Rós. There's a museum quality to these electronic and organic experiments. The sounds are calming and soft, their peculiarities unthreatening. Like a curious child, Go Go Smear is charming.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars