by Dave Segal


Wed Aug 27


In a world lousy with evil, heart-probing music is where we go for solace. With dangerous fool Dubya in the White House and our electricity grid suddenly as temperamental as Bill O'Reilly, the sweet, soft organica of Icelandic quartet Mum is practically a necessity.

Whereas countrymen Sigur Ròs inflate post-rock to Alps-sized anthems, Mùm miniaturize IDM to bedroom dimensions. What the groups share, however, is the ability to invest their songs with a profound emotional depth that transcends language. Ethereal melodies and an unknowable, invented tongue (Hopelandish in Sigur Ros' case, Icelandic in Mùm's) convey a powerful pathos that can only come from people whose country is composed largely of uninhabitable volcanic rock. (And, yes, Björk is a fan.)

Consisting of Gunnar Orn Tynes, Orvar Poreyjarson Smarason, and twin sisters Kristin Anna Valtysdottir and Gyda Valtysdottir, Mùm swaddles your inner child with Charmin-soft tones, glazes your noggin with textural frost that acts like a balm to over-stimulated, overstressed Westerners. I rarely use a word like "pretty" to describe electronic music, but no other will do. The Muzak corporation could have its way with Mùm's tunes and grandmothers in Idaho would weep with joy if they heard 'em.

On 2001's universally praised debut disc, Yesterday Was Dramatic--Today Is OK (Thule), Mùm consolidate the melodic grace of early Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and the Morr Music label's indietronica introverts while adhering to IDM's clicky, twitchy rhythms. You can bet your collection of faded, tight T-shirts that Postal Service's Ben Gibbard was listening to Yesterday.

With 2002's Finally We Are No One (FatCat), Mum smooths over the glitches with an organic sheen of glockenspiel, harmonium, melodica, accordion, Wurlitzer organ, and cello, in addition to the obligatory PowerBooks. Mum recorded the album in a lighthouse off Iceland's northwest coast. They used a rubber boat to get there. Picture the image of four nice Icelandic bohemians in their early 20s floating to their humble recording destination, and you get an idea of the purity and seriousness of Mum's art. You can understand why a TV documentary about Buddhist monks used one of their tracks, and why some of their music is meant to be heard underwater.