I have no idea what a Smilewound actually is. Or a ‘Toothwheel’ for that matter. Apart from being the latest album and single from Icelandic collective Múm, that is. It’s also their first proper album for four years, and the first one with founding member Gyða for 11 years.
Their previous releases have been quirky to say the least, and despite garnering an enthusiastic fan base they have often been accused of being too quirky for their own good. That is not the case here, with Smilewound being unmistakably accessible to all. It’s even been released on cassette to mark the first ever cassette store day.
Opener ‘Toothwheel’ (nope, still no idea) is a perfect example of this premise; its restraint leads to delicious vocals being balanced of luscious strings.
The album really starts though with the unrepentant ‘When Girls Collide,’ which despite initially sounding like someone sat on a child’s toy turns into the most enjoyable slice of electronic music I’ve heard for a long time.
The fun continues with the busy, burbling ‘Candlestick’ complete with sections seemingly composed on a Sega Megadrive, and the drum and bass centric ‘The Colourful Stabwound.’ ‘Time to Scream & Shout’ is nothing like it suggests—its more of a gentle ode.
The final track features Kylie Minogue, singing the most obtuse lyrics. It’s unnecessary—Gyða and Kristín have it all tied up, constantly delivering beguiling, beautifully soft vocals. I would suggest that the link up with Kylie might have been more for her credibility than anything else.
Smilewound is a delight, and stands up well to repeated plays; the electronic beeps and squeaks seems to reveal more with each listen. I hate to say it, but it sounds infinitely Icelandic. I can imagine it being played by coffee shops all over Reykjavík, on repeat.
Original review written for Iceland Review online.