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Kurr by Amiina

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Reviewed on 23rd May 2007.



By Amiina

Amiina (formerly Amína) are an odd band. Four Icelanders better known for their connection with Sigur Rós more than anything else, they play an instrumental music that is hard to classify. Their debut EP, AnimaaminA was a particularly Scandinavian take on the 'folktronica' sound - classical, folk, electronica, and avant-garde influences melded together to produce the kind of music that would fit nicely with photogenic landscapes and those life affirming moments that happen far less often in real life than good music would lead us to believe. Their strength then was their approach to the music - it was all purely acoustic, which although not necessarily making it superior, did make it stand out; and the EP also gave the impression of being from the heart. It was far from perfect, but tracks such as Fjarskanistan proved that it was beautiful.

Now three years later, Amiina release their first album proper. The mood has changed. AnimaaminA had elements of cuteness and Icelandic cliché about it, but it managed to surpass them with the quality of the music. Kurr is a far more 'cheery' (for want of a much, much better word) piece of work, which is no bad thing in itself. However, when a band partial to adding almost medieval instrumentation (not to mention playing glasses and other household implements, at least I think...) to their music, being cute and cheery is a dangerous thing. Sometimes the whole quirkiness of the thing grates badly - Seoul is just plain annoying, and is the kind of music that gives tags such as 'avant-garde' and 'experimental' a bad name. And Sexfaldur sounds like car advert music that has been given a very talented makeover artist. Hmmm.

Then there are some tracks that would fall flat, if it wasn't for the saving grace of an instrument that I don't believe has appeared on a recorded work of Amiina's before - their excellent voices. Hilli, Kolapot and Rugla (despite its uncanny similarities to Agaetis Byrjun era Sigur Rós) all benefit massively from some well thought out choral vocals that make what could almost be a twee country folk enthusiasts jam session in to something worthwhile. The almost ambient voices of María, Hildur, Edda, and Sólrún convey the emotion of their music much better than their over studied and over thought instrumentation.

I think the problem with this album is that Amiina have proven that they can write genuinely emotionally engaging music out of what, in the wrong hands, could be obnoxiously bad ingredients. Whereas once before they seemed intent to not hold back in their delivery, they now seem to have set their sights on something much lower - throwaway ambience for those with a passing interest in all things branded 'Iceland'. Their obvious talent does manage to break through in places in the fragility of Boga, and with Bláfeldur being a fantastically simple, heartfelt and direct piece of music that is worthy of their reputation. It is for this reason that I've quantified all this as 6/10. Otherwise, this is a sorely disappointing album.



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