John Edwards Gunn
I’m not all that interested in the biography of bands, but it seems essential to the character of Mum’s music that they’re Icelandic, and of course a big part of their appeal to the likes of style-mag editors, now that Iceland is – for some reason – the epitome of cool. Well, who cares about that, except that cool is a good word to describe Mum (and Iceland, course), in the other sense of the word.
Finally We Are No One is sedate and dreamy, very like Boards of Canada, where ambient textures come fused with fuzzy beats. Occasionally it stirs into more vigorous life, for instance on We Have A Map Of The Piano, but for the most part the formula remains unchanged. High-pitched tones give a childlike quality, while breathy vocals in sweet, naive, heavily-accented English sing lyrics like ‘when I’m swimming through a tunnel/I shut my eyes’. The voice, after a while, feels a bit drippy, expressing only a wistful melancholy.
Instrumentals work best, like the anthemic Don’t Be Afraid You Just Have Your Eyes Closed, gorgeous and glittery, almost Christmassy. Between Two Hills… A Swimmingpool is a beautiful watery miniature.
On their titles alone it would be easy to convict Mum of feyness and whimsy, but the purity of their sound is compelling, and there’s a toughness in there somewhere. The use of violin on K/Half Noise keeps their ethereal tones grounded and ends in static and distant buzzing. Now There’s That Fear is more sombre, sensing a darkness hidden behind a veil of illuminated fog. There’s a deep, resonant, hollow centre to this song. Conventional instruments add warmth and emotional depth where the coolness is just too much. Even after all this time synths still sound cold. Mum’s sound is like a freezing winter’s day, bright with glare off the snow – you stay wrapped up warm.
The album’s twelve-minute closer The Land Between Solar Systems is for eight of those minutes more ethereal than anyone should have to put up with, but a growing barrage of static overwhelms the song before suddenly cutting out to reveal the satisfying, liquid clarity that is Mum’s signature.