Mammút - Kinder Versions

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2017-07-14

The Icelandic superstars formed as ROK, an all-girl trio in 2003. Supplemented by two new (male) members, the quartet changed their name to Mammút and released three albums, culminating in 2013’s Komdu til mín svarta systir [Come to me, my dark sister], which swept the Icelandic Music Awards for Best Album, Best Song, and Best Album Cover. Their fourth album comes following an extended absence that saw them fail to capitalize on all the accolades, having to resort to crowdsourcing to raise money for its release.

Lead singer Katrína Kata Mogensen’s father was the bassist in Kukl, the forerunner of The Sugarcubes (although he did not continue in that project), so comparisons with the avant popsters is expected, and they do have a dark, sparse element to their syncopated, disjointed pop. Mogensen’s vocals are crystalline and emotional (and in English), while the band’s arrangements and slicing, occasionally jarring guitars bear similarities to the Gothic aloofness of The [early] Cure. And, yes, she does sound like Bjork, particularly on the funky, Talking Heads-ish ‘Pray For Air’.

Some of the songs do go on far too long (opener ‘We Tried Love’ is a great 4:00 track, but a rambling, boring, repetitive mess by the time it ends at 7½). The theatrical, nearly spoken-word title track has a haunting arrangement with eerie guitar lines and phased backing that may work better on stage than in the studio, although some of it could also have landed safely on the cutting-room floor without losing its impact.

‘Breathe Into Me’  has the dreamy swagger of American female rockers, Warpaint, while Mogensen’s too-cute, baby doll vocals don’t quite carry the suppressive, impending doom that pours out of ‘Walls’, although its catchy chorus and strident harmonies suggest it could be the album’s hit single.

So while it may not garner all the accolades of its predecessor and may not even be remembered at awards time, there are many intriguing aspects to its off-kilter pop arrangements and skittish vocal pyrotechnics to warrant a few spins, particularly if you’re not familiar with one of Iceland’s most popular acts.

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