Friday, September 18, 2015
múm -- Summer Make Good
What múm looked like at this point:
By early 2004, I considered Iceland to be the greatest place on Earth. Björk, Sigur Rós, and múm are all from there, and Björk, Sigur Rós, and múm were (and are) three of my favorite artists. Plus, that cold rock jutting out of the North Atlantic looked like just my kind of place: cold, lonely, and independent, but with warm refuge for those who seek it. But enough about that. After having my socks blown off (is that some kind of sex reference? How do you get your socks blown off. Why is it the Chicago White Sox and not the White Socks? Why doesn't anything make sense?!) by múm's 2002 release, Finally We Are No One, I wildly anticipated their summer of 2004 release, Summer Make Good (not to be confused with Demon Hunter's album from the same summer, Summer of Darkness). Wore out from my famous nine-month migraine, the weary tones of Summer Make Good were just what the doctor (of music, who has a real PhD) ordered. To continue my probably completely off-base childhood and teenager metaphors from the two previous reviews: while múm's first album, Yesterday Was Dramatic--Today Is Okay, explored childhood jubilation, and Finally We Are No One, the more complicated joy and sadness of the teen years, Summer Make Good ventures into the darker, scarier waters of growing up. That previous sentence is mainly accurate because Summer Make Good is really dark and mentions the ocean a lot and also sounds like the ocean, so feel free to discard the rest of what I said, you who have inexplicably read this insane review past the first paragraph, which is actually still happening. Speaking of insane paragraphs, múm included this one in the liner notes (in the CD case...CD's are a plastic disc from which one can listen to music, if one has a device for CD listening.) for Summer Make Good:
Fear blew somewhere in the faraway now, this fear that had gripped my breathing when I lay in bed at night. Watching the storm window, I just could not put down my telescope anymore and kept imagining my teeth breaking. I was having violent dreams where me and the other kids would commit horrible acts and then run away in guilt. I needed to put down my telescope, so I walked down to the sea. My boots were full of fog. Lying on a rock I stuck my head in the cold water. From under the waves that kissed my shoulders, I could hear it's (sic) faint bells drifting closer. But would the summer make good for all of our sins?
See what I mean? It's (not sic because that's actually its correct usage) way darker. But wait a minute, you didn't read the previous two reviews, and you have no reference point for what I'm talking about? Well, that's your fault! Just kidding...partially. Múm's first album used electronic devices, a small smattering of organic instruments, and a little bit of singing to re-create the emotions of childhood. Their second album furthered this concept into more melancholic waters, but with a bit more singing, and always coming back to a point of emotional re-assurance. Summer Make Good decreases the amount of electronics, and uses them more to create texture than the actual song structures. Meanwhile, the album features a vast increase in the use of acoustic instruments, which include (according to the credits before the scary paragraph I quoted above): trumpet, pianette, moog (yes, I know a moog is not an acoustic instrument go away), whistles, guitar, viol, stroh violin, xylophone harp, and halldorophone among other things.
When I look at Summer Make Good's 12 tracks, I only see seven songs. The other five are more like sketches that thicken the mood and atmosphere, which combine to create the feeling of being on a scary island full of a bunch of old, abandoned buildings, one containing a TV playing "Steamboat Willie." And yet, Summer Make Good is relaxed, and strangely comforting...warm...like I imagine a place by the fire is in Iceland. Many of the critic's of 2004 complained about how the album was more atmosphere than songs, but they didn't get that Summer Make Good exists as a unique musical universe that doesn't always have to use songs to fulfill this mission. Shame on them, but not me because in 2004 I said this was the third best album released that year and also this:
There has been a lot of division about the quality of this album. I love it. Many complaints state that this album is the opposite of their last (The insanely good "Finally We Are No One", one of my favorite albums of 2002). For those who don't know, Mum is an Icelandic electronic outfit with raspy, mewly female vocals, and some real instruments and organic sounds thrown in. While their last album sounded like the dreams of a child before waking, this album is the nightmare. The best description I can give is this: Listening to this album is like waking on a misty, craggy, deserted island and discovering it is populated by ghosts, ghosts full of regret, remorse, terrifying stories. Every now and then there is even an outburst of hope and joy. The lyrics are insane ramblings and tales that suddenly center themselves, and are sometimes gasp inducing. In "The Ghosts You Draw on My Back" singer Kristin Anna Valtysdottir whispers "The wind plays flute/ On the Cellar Door/ And on my windowsill/ Plays a sad old song/ I hope tonight/ You will touch my hair/ And draw ghosts on my back." The album runs the gamut of emotions and then ends in a sad, fog-filled, abandoned wharf, full of sunken tombstones in a land devoid of hope. I admit, this album IS NOT as satisfying as Mum's previous, but it is quite good at what it achieves. I can see the validity of the complaints against it, but rarely has an artist created such a complete musical world and maintained it for fourty-five minutes. Superb.
Wow, 2004 me, your musical opinions are legit, but you need to use more run-on sentences. I still agree with that above opinion 100%. I will concur that Summer Make Good isn't quite as strong as its two predecessors, and that's probably because the final nine minutes aren't quite solid enough--I mean that metaphysically, as they are floaty minutes, and not very grounded, though I guess with the emotional journey this album takes, there isn't really any other place for it to go...you're pretty much weightless when you're under the water, anyway. I'll spare your brain cells by only writing one more paragraph.
Múm's first two albums featured the duel vocal talents of twins Gyða Valtýsdóttir and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, but Gyða left before the recording of Summer Make Good. The sound of one Valtýsdóttir singing is slightly harsher than the sound of two, which fits the darker, more spare tones of Summer Make Good quite nicely, the end, goodbye.
You doubt my opinions! Behold the chill majesty!
2004 FatCat Records
1. Hú Hviss - A Ship 1:27
2. Weeping Rock, Rock 6:18
3. Nightly Cares 4:58
4. The Ghosts You Draw on My Back 4:14
5. Stir 2:41
6. Sing Me Out the Window 4:42
7. The Island of Children's Children 5:16
8. Away 1:28
9. Oh, How the Boat Drifts 5:11
10. Small Deaths Are the Saddest 1:30
11. Will the Summer Make Good for All of Our Sins? 4:02
12. Abandoned Ship Bells 5:03