The sun was shining on a spring Saturday. The trees, still yet to find their first buds of the season, stood still as the wind remained so low as to not disturb their settled stances. Dusk was creeping around the corner as the last hour of light glimmered and blinded me through my glasses. The cold air was surprisingly easy on my hands as I walked home. It was kind of perfect. It was the kind of day intended for Kurr.
It must be a bit annoying for Amiina. Not only do they have to work themselves to the bone when touring with Sigur Rós with their own set followed by providing backing for their higher ranked counterparts, they will always be subject to instant comparisons with them. Not that that is a bad thing, it’s just that Amiina’s debut album, Kurr, instead recalls more evidently the early work of Jóhann Jóhannsson. Tracks on Kurr have a gentle ambience that centers around often unhurried yet surprisingly satisfying and gradual climaxes. Though that in itself may sound exactly like the next Sigur Rós or Múm track, Amiina have developed their own kind if ambience amongst this Icelandic crowd.
In fact, the only track on the album which sounds directly related to Sigur Rós is the sleepy brass arrangement, “Bláfeldur” which plays like an alternate opening to “Ný Batterí”. In similar fashion, tracks can be spread out effectively; first single “Seoul”, the most perfect example of this. Built upon layers of ocean noises, bass drums and a noise so intriguing it sounds like the equivalent to slow motion on record, it expands into glockenspiel and the tumbling of who knows what. That’s the thing with Amiina, being such vast multi-instrumentalists – from violins to wine glasses to musical saws – you never know what’s being played and making that sound which leaves a rather mysterious yet ambiguous and imaginative aspect to the album.
But just like they expand their songs, they can fold them into equally climactic short cuts. “Lúpína” and “Saga” are never so much off putting but instead seem rightly placed before “Hilli” and “Lóri”, two very different but equally superb tracks. “Hilli” whistles and chants above a mandolin that produces a proud and identifiable sound while “Lóri” uses some sort of medieval harpsichord that breathes in and out, exhaling on drums and accordion creating something almost sinister and thus making it the most individual track on Kurr.
As soon as it begins, Amiina set off their music that always stays aloft until the last few gentle touches that reveal themselves from the silence of the final track and shuffle the album slowly to a stop. Always floating about if not soaring at times, it keeps a mood level that never becomes pretentious or too immersed in itself. Amiina are just plain nice and tracks like “Rugla” prove this effortlessly. With global warming around it won’t be too hard to find a sunny day to enjoy Kurr but no heat will ever melt this iced gem.
By Ray Finlayson
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