m퀌_m returns, and the day couldn’t be brighter

finally we are no one
Fat Cat

m퀌_m’s debut, Yesterday Was Dramatic Today is OK(Thule Musik) was a soothing mix of warm analog fuzz, live instrumentation and programmed blips and beats. At once heartfelt and playful, poppy and experimental, the album quickly cemented m퀌_m as a favorite among the electronica set: a warmly-welcomed antidote to the bland programming so prevalent today.

The Icelandic quartet’s follow-up is no less gorgeous. We get all of the same musing, lilting melodies and faltering yet confident beats from the array of instruments they put to use. Accordion, melodica, glockenspiel, synthesizers, guitars, bass, cello, some toys and the aforementioned programming – basically the whole shebang is used here. And don’t think all of that stuff belies an extraneous or gimicky nature. m퀌_m utilizes their tools to fine minimal effect.

The album opens with the intro “sleep/swim,” that gives way to “green grass of tunnel,” which lives up to the promise of the intro’s title, swimming through the mind, we know right away something special is going on here – the grass is, in fact, green. Vocals arrive out of nowhere and ride atop the mix as the music fades during the chorus, only to rear their heads again in grandiose fashion.

“We have a map of the piano” is also aptly titled: it features a progressive bassline and understated piano line with whispered vocals and a click track beat that alternates with one built of the sound of a record caught spinning endlessly in its groove. “Don’t be afraid, you have just got your eyes closed” wakes everybody up with sunny horns and perky ooh-ooh vocals.

The 30-second “behind two hills … a swimming pool” sounds like the pleasure of drowning surrounded by children’s blow-up toys, while “K/half noise” is built of atmosphere and gentle vocals, with a brooding synth line serving to brace the whole thing when the beat disappears.

The ethereal quality of m퀌_m’s music cannot be stressed enough – the atmospherics are orchestra-worthy. This makes sense, since the two female members, twins Krist퀌_n Anna and Gya Valt?sd퀌_ttir, are classically trained.

“Now there’s that fear again” arises with an accordion line to remind us these folks are of European origin-but of course there’s the IDM beat to give the vocalist something to hold on to.

“Faraway swimming pool” echoes a lot of what we heard on the first album, crystal clear, like we imagine the water in Reykjavik to be. The landscape of Iceland, with its green pastures, also comes to mind. “I can’t feel my head anymore, it’s all right sleep still” is like a deconstructionist lullaby for the mortally wounded, a soundtrack to a movie about a boy whose head is ready to blow from confusion and musical overload.

The title track then continues the breather before introducing a theme that could easily be stolen and put to an inspirational film. And that’s not bad – it’s perfect. In fact, much of the record is cinematic in nature. Listening to m퀌_m is like listening to a movie. And it’s literary too – just review the song title and you have a few surreal poems. And then there are the liner notes …

The album’s closer, “the land between solar systems” brings it home with a straight-up drum beat. Melodica and a synth like water dripping in an echo chamber accompany the beautiful voices as they play off of each other, and then the beat gets crunchy and it all blows up before the atmosphere returns to close this beautiful album on a perfect note.

m퀌_m, not to be confused with the German band with nearly the same name, again provides all the beauty we could ask for in a late spring release.