I can’t pronounce any of the tracks on Múm’s album Early Birds. I don’t speak Icelandic. Neither, apparently, does iTunes, because all the track names are filled with question marks and odd Cyrillic letters. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good album, a compilation of the first half of their history in the Biz; rare, previously unreleased material, with a couple of lost tracks thrown in for good measure. Here’s what’s clear: Iceland knows experimental electronic music.
Take Póst póstmaður, the second track. At only two and a half minutes in length, it manages to convey both the frenetic world of drum and bass and the serenity wit ha simple looped musical verse. Glerbrot (Broken Glass) has the unique quality of some background chatter, as if in a small party with the DJs providing a very unusual soundtrack. The chimes feel as though a rainy or snowy scene is taking place. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Hvernig á að særa vini sína (How to Hurt His Friends) turned up in a ski video this winter or the next. Insert Coin is bare bones electronic percussion, a tribute to the soundtracks of our 8-bit memories. lalalala blái hnötturinn (Blue Globe) has a music box quality to it, possibly alluding to our planet twirling in the vast emptiness of space like a tiny ballerina, and Enginn vildi hlusta á fiðlun ginn, því strengir hans vóru slitnir (getiði ekki verið góð við mömmu okkar) is a long song with a long title, loosely translated as No one would listen to violin stumbling blocks, the strings of his wounds had worn (can not be a good mother to us). It evokes a rainy Paris night, wandering aimlessly and seeing the world shut until morning.
Cast aside any notions of Bjork and her pop side, because Múm is just as weird but with a decidedly more abstract market. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like what you’ll hear, but it’s certainly worth a listen or two.