It’s crazy the depths a band will go to capture a particular atmosphere on their record.
Take Icelandic darlings Mum, for instance. The trio wrote the songs for Summer Make Good in a remote lighthouse in Galtarviti in Northeast Iceland, then isolated themselves for six weeks in an empty weather station/light-keeper’s house in Gar_skagata. Open seas and rugged landscapes surrounded both.
At Galtarviti, the band had to row out in a tiny boat across the seas to get provisions. If they wanted to communicate with the outside world, they had to climb three hours up a mountain to get any reception. At one point, when their label’s rep came to see them, they ended up stranded for three days and were eventually rescued by the Icelandic coast guard.
As you can imagine, this doesn’t paint a happy picture. And that’s exactly what you can expect from Mum’s Summer Make Good.
Following 2002’s acclaimed Finally We Are No One (the band’s first for Fat Cat, the label that notably gave us fellow atmospheric Icelanders Sigur Ros), Summer Make Good picks up where the last one ended and then twists it into a quiet nightmare. Lovers of Mum’s eclectic cuteness may be left feeling uneasy when they hear a darker side of the gentle electronic lullabies they’re used to.
It’s no new revelation that Mum is comparable to the likes of their motherland’s counterparts Bjork and Sigur Ros. In fact, they flawlessly combine the subtleness of Bjork’s majestic vocals with Sigur Ros’ brooding pace. Summer is noticeably tighter than the last, mainly because they chose to mix using vintage amps and old gramophone speakers. The result is a thicker sound that’s less digital; all the fine details ring crystal.
Knowing the setting of how this recording came about, you begin to notice the crackling of gusting winds, creaking wood, dripping water and creaks of old vinyl, and it’s a little disconcerting. But that aside, the album flows beautifully with picturesque interludes of Chinese harp, accordion and glockenspiel combined with Kristin Anna Valt_sdottir’s innocent voice
This is the perfect atmosphere for a horror movie like Ginger Snaps — progressive, creepy and delicate. Their cinematic music is akin to Jeunet & Caro’s Delicatessen and City of Lost Children.
I have no idea why Mum decided to go to where they did to brainstorm — and part of me wonders if they intended to make a happier record than what they conjured. But they made the right choice to detach themselves; through this record, the band encapsulates the definition of “atmosphere” in a dozen tracks.