Myrkvi (Magnús Thoracius and Yngvi Holm, trading under the original name of the former) released their debut album, ‘Early Warning’ on 27th October.
Originally intended to be released under the name of their old band Vio, a multiple award winner eight or nine years ago, it took many years to finalise – the release was put back a couple of times this year alone – and features arrangements created with its previous band members, Kári Guðmundsson and Páll Cecil Sævarsson.
The album is billed as “an introspective reflection of the duo’s 1990s roots, wasted years and common lunacy” while the title, ‘Early Warning’, alludes to “something brewing under the surface and of spectacular things to come.”
Recorded in their private studio, the music is guitar driven, and the songs were written during that difficult period in most bands’ careers when satisfaction with initial success starts to wane under the weight of future expectations.
The album touches on subjects such as not knowing where to go, the madness of choosing to spend one’s life chasing such an indefinable and evasive dream, and the looming breakup of the original band.
It also features songs about friendship, revelry and forgetting one’s troubles, as well as a cheeky ridicule of the prosperity race, not to mention love and depression.
Just a chronicle of the drudgery of life’s daily grind and its occasional, passing delights you might think; a musical version of Helgason’s novel, 101 Reykjavik.
The album kicks off with that ‘Early Warning’ blaring out like a siren, a song that encourages you to live for the moment, which I suppose is more important than ever right now, a soft rock melody with a hint of Britpop and shoegaze about it before it slips into a harder beat and then outros with full on guitar reverb. That’s pretty much the Myrkvi gold standard and it sets the scene for the remainder of the album.
Lunacy is a trait often associated with Iceland (the word ‘Berserk’ originated there) and from a gentle opening the track ‘Lunatic’ gravitates from what could be lines cut out of ‘A whiter shade of pale’ (“Only the ceiling is stopping you, spinning round the head you are talking to”) via some intensive electronic interventions into a sound extravaganza.
I don’t know who the ‘Miserable People’ are in their part of the world but they won’t stay miserable for long, they’ll soon be cavorting to the danciest track so far with its vigorous rising finale. I detect some influence from Of Monsters and Men on this one; see what you think.
‘Hallucinations’ is the blandest track the album, a little too shoe gazy and directionless, until about half way through when the tempo is upped then it goes all electronically ethereal and turns into the sort of music you might expect to accompany you on one of those ‘Into the Glacier’ trips after you’ve eaten some preparatory magic mushrooms along with your rams’ testicles.
‘Self Pity’ refers specifically to the sort of pity you can feel for yourself when you are in a relationship with someone who is depressed (and who might also be feeling exactly the same thing). An Icelandic take on the Dane Ida Wenøe’s ‘The Self Pity Song’. It is quite an esoteric subject and I’ve suggested previously that one of the band has experienced this for themselves either directly or indirectly?
It is the brightest and most melodic track yet despite the gloomy subject matter and carries the speed and precision of The Jam with the jangly piano of Arcade Fire’s ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ in a lively cocktail that will leave you seeking anything but pity.
‘Overboard’ is a dramatic title for a track which is considerably more laid back, with a 1960’s flavour, with a sort of Herman’s Hermits or The Hollies feel to it while ‘Draumabyrjun’ (‘The Perfect Start’) references the beginning to their careers as Vio, and is a rock ballad – by which I mean a ballad vocally and an indie rock track musically – with a tasty guitar solo and licks thrown in for good measure.
The bass-heavy ‘Beaches’ could be a pulsing lament for a country which only has sparse ones, and mainly black at that, ‘Blindfolded’ opens the door to a couple of short but engagingly energetic guitar solos that I wish there could have been more of across the album and it plays out with ‘Postpone’, a track verging on the anthemic in the choruses set to a bass and percussion rhythm that hooks you in and refuses to let go.
From the very first time I heard Myrkvi a few years ago I was convinced that he, subsequently they, would ultimately come up with an album of great variety, of musical distinction, intelligent lyrics and, most importantly, one that establishes the duo as leaders rather than followers. You might say I gave my own early warning.
Not all the album works perfectly, but most of it does and there is no filler in here either. It could be a bio for Vio in that, almost a decade on it has re-established that incubator as a leading light again on the music scene in Iceland.
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