Reykjavik Grapevine: Album Reviews: Grúska Babúska, “S/T”

15 Jul

So I did a review of the self titled EP from Icelandic female 4-piece Grúska Babúska a few months ago, and it was finally printed in the current issue of the Grapevine. you can go here to check it out. It also seems again that there’s been an attack of the Ghost Sub-editors –  Where are all the commas in the first paragraph? Also the beginning of the final paragraph should have read that the album could work as a children’s album, not couldn’t. But these alas are no concerns of mine. What’s done is done, etc.

Anyway, it’s fair to say that I didn’t like the EP that much. Many of the songs are like the following. It´s just too coy, sickly and overpowering in it’s affected innocence to actually enjoy it. …

It wasn’t all bad though. Interestingly, there was one good song on the album, called “Burg” (Which alas in the review is called “Bur” – Dammit!), that actually has a different feel to the rest of the album. 

The track hints at some of the more playful aspects of old ’70s soundtrack/library scores.

The thing though is that these are intro songs to rather Grisly ’70s Italian giallo/horror movies (‘The Bird With the Crystal Plumage,’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ respectively). The power of the tracks comes from the juxtaposition of music that is soft, sweet, almost childlike, with gory, vicious nastiness. It gives the music that sense of power, that it’s actually leading you into a false sense of security before the film pulls the rug from under your feet.

Then there’s other films from that time that portray the world of a growing child as a surrealist fairytale (I understand that film is rather popular with many members of the arts scene here in Iceland)

Even though it’s put forward as a fairytale, there’s a lot more going on with “Valerie / Her Week Of Wonders” that at first glance. Despite the surreal and dreamlike imagery, there’s a heavy sexual/Oedipal undercurrent to the plot. It’s an allegory that chronicles the world through the eyes of a child who is undergoing the first stages of puberty, as she grows from a girl into a woman, with all the fear and uncertainties that come with it. It echoes many of the old fairy tales/folk songs that actually had a very adult/blasphemous take on the world around them, before Victorian & Edwardian morals sought to excise the more suspect/dirtier elements from them.

And then you have the modern quirky takes on fairy tale folk and the soundtrack/library music from that era, examples of which are coming out from offshoot labels of Finder Keepers records (Disposable Music, and Pre-Cert Home Entertainment).

Listening to that, the music seems to be looking to synthesize and channel that hauntological sense of the uncanny, almost supernatural forces that runs through much of our lives unnoticed, unless we care to look deeper. Lots of musique concrete sounds (Bangs, shoes shuffling and clomping on the ground, creaks, clinks of chains, scratches) and slightly discordant melody lines that add a kind of untamed, sinister ambiance to what is music for kids stories.

And this is the fundamental flaw with Grúska Babúska. Even though they try to attain a sense of a fairy tale sound that harks at something weird and unusual, there is no depth or details to their world. Apart from “Burg,” It fails to invoke any sense of the unusual, that there is more going on to their music and imagery that provides a for sense of the uncanny or fantastical. It´s all “Aren’t we so nice and lovely and sweet?”

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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Iceland, music


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