One of the most negative aspects of file-sharing networks is the ability to pirate albums before their official release dates. Aside from showing a great weakness to being impatient, it also shows a great deal of disrespect to the artist who worked hard to get out the album in good time. I personally don't understand why people do this. What can be better than waiting an extra month or two after finding out the release date, rushing out the day of, going to an independent record store, holding a copy of the complete work in your hands, forking over some cash for it, rushing home, popping it into your CD, and eating up every second of the long waited for work?
When I heard that Múm's third full-length album Summer Make Good had been leaked onto Soulseek I was faced with a true dilemma: was I to go back on my ideals and download my favorite bands album early or was I to hold true to those ideals and wait until April, when the album was to be released officially? Well, I decided to come to a compromise with myself, and decided I would only be partly hypocritical and download a single song to tide me over.
Deciding which song to choose, from the twelve songs that were to grace Summer Make Good, was truly tricky business. I had seen Múm on tour during the summer of 2003 when they showcasing songs that would be on their up coming album, then untitled, and I wanted to try to avoid picking up one of these songs that I had already heard, but of course that would be nearly impossible since they did not introduce any of the songs with titles. What I could easily avoid, however, were short songs that I knew would be nothing but some prime Múm noise, which ruled out Small Deaths Are The Saddest, and Hu Hviss - A Ship. I also wanted to avoid the single, Nightly Cares, because that would be too easy on my part.
So in the end I went with what had gone well in the past. On Finally We Are No One, the bands second full-length album, the stand out track was Green Grass Of Tunnel, the second song on the album after a brief introduction of noise. I could only assume that Múm might be up to the same old tricks and place their best song in the second position again after another introduction song, the aforementioned Hu Hviss - A Ship. I downloaded this second song, titled Weeping Rock, Rock.
Weeping Rock, Rock
Just as suspected, Weeping Rock, Rock starts off with what would seem to be a continuation of the noisy introduction that Hu Hviss - A Ship will probably be, with high-pitched, breathy, atmospheric synths that sound like the restless cicadas of summer, and a glitched, call and response, plucked triangle wave. As the summers night sets in for the first thirty seconds an intruder comes into the scene. He is dark, and swelling form the heat, and sounds like a cello, who might have been set in reverse for added effect. As he slowly builds and arrives in his full potential another comes into the once quiet grove.
This second visitor is the monotonous beating of open electric guitar strings that have been distorted to the extent of near obscurity. As this pulsing distortion comes closer and closer, growing in loudness, others stealthily appear behind, joining the growing procession with brass and more strings. Swooping in from above comes the sound of a music box being wound by a child who sits in the grass on this summers night. That music box gradually turns into a high-hit and then into the almost unnoticeable sounds of a broken celesta. While continuing to grow in intensity, and with faint melodies emerging from the thumping drone, a local playing the banjo on his front porch, with a pitcher of lemonade that is weeks old, slowly rocks back and forth on his rocking chair.
Now at the two minute mark of Weeping Rock, Rock we see a familiar friend who is here to lead us through the dark, swelling night: the childlike voice of Kristin Valtysdottir, the remaining twin. She currently speaks incoherently, going on in a language that consists only of la-la-la's, but assuring us that things will calm down soon. Just as she secretly told us, things do calm down, and we have escaped the loud thumping of pure distortion and dissonant swell of the cello. During this moment of calm Kristin begins to speak to us in English, not Icelandic, as the trumpets continue to follow in the background. But soon, as Kristin continues to swoon to us with her voice, the trumpet and background noise cuts out completely, and it is the return of the twanging banjo man.
This ultra-quiet lasts for the briefest of moments before it's back to the loud swells, with a set of live drums to move us along as well. Joining the swelling movements is a pure melody that sounds to be coming from a melodica and a calmed accordion. Soon though, these calm, tranquil melodies manage to destroy the swelling force, and only the melody remains, with added guitar plucks and more la-la-la's from Kristin, as well as the live, but manipulated drums. This section goes to various points along the way, with background fuzz seeping in and out of the song, before the girl begins to sing again.
After a swinging verse comes down from another small climax everyone goes home except for the lone girl who continues to la-la-la as she returns to the cobblestone roads of town. With a tiny high pitched theremin sound following her in the shadows everything is seemingly over, and we continue to sleep through the heat.
It's going to be a hard three months leading up to the release of Summer Make Good for me, knowing that a seemingly remarkable album is just sitting there on Soulseek. After downloading Weeping Rock, Rock all of my fears I had gained from hearing people claim that Mum had gone towards a minimalist route simply flew out the window, and I can only imagine what other pure gems exist on this album. However, one thing that does have me a bit concerned is how dark Weeping Rock, Rock sounded. The Múm of the past wasn't afraid to sound cheerful and light, while at time turning towards deep dark drones, but it seems like some of the innocence might have been lost from the band.
At the same time it is very nice to see that the lose of a member hasn't hurt the band at all. Gyða, Kristin's twin sister, may have been the only one who was classically trained in the group, but even though she left Múm are still able to compose excellent songs that have real emotional power. With the lose of Gyða, however, came the gain of three other members, and their presence on this song is felt, whether it be through the trumpet of Samuli Kosminen, or the live drums put down by Olof Arnalds.
It is my opinion after only hearing Weeping Rock, Rock that Summer Make Good will be just as good as, if not better than, Finally We Are No One. It will show the band growing into new areas of sound and progressing with their composition. It's going to be a real struggle not to download the rest of this album.
Update: January 28th, 2004
Today, Pitchfork Media spotlighted Weeping Rock, Rock in the We Are The World, a section of their website where they review three songs from various artists each weekday with their regular updates. With each review they give the song a star rating from zero to five, with the former being low praise, and the latter, obviously, being high. Weeping Rock, Rock scored a one and a half stars.
In the opening of the review, which was written by Pitchfork Media founder/wanker Ryan Schreiber, mocks the Icelandic aesthetic, being critical of "elfin twynklefaeries" and "gay children." With the rest of the review Ryan goes on to ridicule the vocals laid down in Weeping Rock, Rock, as well as the song structure and instrumentation used, calling it trite and something that had been done before. Toward the end of the rather obnoxious review littered with large, italicized la-la-la's, Mr. Pitchfork goes on to wish death on the "faerie" making the "freak noise."
Usually I respect Pitchfork Media, as they do provide a service that can't be matched, except for Tiny Mix Tapes and Brainwashed Brain, but with their review on Weeping Rock, Rock I lost all faith in them whatsoever. It may be true that Kristin's voice is rather unusual and maybe working off of the iconic Icelandic image, but it is still a true voice, that is as pure as white snow freshly fallen. To criticize a voice like that is just silly, which works out well because the review itself is silly too. Right now I will predict, that one April, Pitch Fork Media will give Summer Make Good a ridiculously low rating.