Magical Mum: The Icelandic Band Is So Weirdly Beautiful To Us


Ah, Iceland, with its bubbling volcanic action, pervasive fairy magic, and recent unfortunate financial meltdown. Such a small, sweet, chilly country – and yet it boasts such a seethingly creative music scene, one that encompasses both Bjork to Sigur Ros, both haunting traditional folk song and light-as-air indie-pop in the form of Emiliana Torrini.

Mum’s latest release does little to dissuade me that there’s elfin power in its rocky expanses. The now-12-year-old Icelandic collective’s twanging, banging, spiraling sound is in beauteous blossom on the new Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know (Euphono). Led by founders Gunnar Orn Tynes and Orvar Poreyjarson Smarason, mum also performs Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Independent. (Get there early for fellow Icelander Sin Fang Bous, who makes his North American touring debut and two years ago, as Seabear, put out a riveting experimental indie-folk LP on Morr Music.)

Stay for mum. On Sing Along’s “A River Don’t Stop to Breathe,” bliss floats by on a flotilla of plinking, chugging, creaking instrumentation – a veritable Tom Waits-ian tinkershop given its most ethereal treatment. Paired with sonorous violin, viola, and cello, the singers coo like icicle-draped soul siblings. It’s a lullaby liable to take Huck Finn and all his kindred drifters deep into dreamland.

Just as quickly the combo switches to the manic bip-bop percussion of “The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk in the Wind” (can I get a nomination for most inspired song title of ‘09?) and its choral vocals imbued with jazz coloration. Sweetly swinging.

Melodically, one of mum’s most memorable recordings to date, Sing Along seems to take its cue from the heart-wrenching emotional power of Arcade Fire, while supporting the sprawling ensemble’s darting imagination, daring it to continue to pick up and play with new ideas, as well as more traditional pop forms.

Green Grass of Tunnel from 2002's Finally We Are No One.

Mum performs Thursday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. Sin Fang Bous opens. $23. (415) 771-1422,

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