Published August 13, 2014
‘Haust’ Gives GusGus A Run For Their Krónur
Hörður Már Bjarnason’s solo album ‘Haust’ (or “Autumn”), under his band name M-Band, at times seems to emulate the styles of more seasoned electronic musicians a little too closely, but ends up offering plenty of fresh sounds as well. GusGus is an obvious similarity here, along with some of Björk’s more house-inspired tracks of the 1990’s and also the dreamy vocals of Antony. (Side note: a 23-year-old Hörður stated in an interview that he would love to meet Antony one day, and knowing the networks that Icelandic musicians work in, you might as well expect an upcoming collaboration.)
There is still a helping of dance music tricks of the trade on this album, for those who like the standard fare of long filter sweeps, nearly wordless singing, and vocoded lyrics. Countless musicians have done better the digitized voices like those that open the epic ten-minute jam “Psalms of the Mushroom War.” The tracks without as much vocal processing really show off M-Band’s use of complex vocal lines and abstract melodies. Surprisingly, “Psalms” saves itself from cliché by completely shifting its tone to a thrilling, uneven bass/drums pulse, and even electric guitar jamming.
M-Band succeeds in breaking out of the shadows of his role models and into newer territory. Many of Hörður’s chord progressions move with a composer’s touch, following pleasantly unusual patterns. The opening and closing of the album, along with “When the Night Falls,” are beautiful collages, seemingly drawn from bird sounds, piano tones, fragmented voices and scraping sheets of metal. I am most drawn to the titular song ‘Haust,’ which begins with quirky uneven handclaps and acoustic guitar, and then explodes into a swirl of electronics, synths and the strangest, most alluring dub improv. The piece ends as if a pipe organ is merging with some Skrillex songs and it, like the album as a whole, is really captivating.