Iceland seems to be one of those places where boredom induces creativity, with Bj?rk, Sigur Ros, and Mugison only the most prominent exponents of a rich and utterly likeable music scene. Flawed and dissatisfying as it ultimately is, ?Gummi? proves that the name of Olafur Josephsson (who records under the Stafraenn Hakon moniker) nevertheless has to be added to this list.
?Gummi? is already Hakon?s fourth album released on the UK label Resonant and it is his biggest release to date, the first two albums being re-releases of intricately arranged bedroom recordings. While 2004?s ?Ventill/Poki? was the first Stafraenn hakon album to be recorded with the help of supporting musicians, ?Gummi? is another significant move away from home recordings and towards a more fully developed band sound: Apart from featuring a lot of guest instrumentalists (Greg Haines on accordion, among others), it is Josephsson?s first album that has vocals on most of the tracks.
Although the vocals are provided by such accomplished musicians as Casper Clausen (of Efterklang) and Birgir Hilmarsson (of Blindfold/Ampop), I have to confess that I would like the tracks a lot more if they were instrumentals. Don?t get me wrong: I?m not generally opposed to the whole indie band thing, it?s just that the pathetic lament makes tracks like ?Svefn? and ?Hausi? painfully sound like U2 (there, I?ve said it). As different singers are involved and the impression remains the same, the problem has to be with the songwriting.
Josephsson?s instrumental tracks ?Glussi?, ?P-Rofi? and ?Jarn? create more subtle atmospheres. Combining home-orchestra electronica and a forceful post rock sound to full epic effect, these tracks display Josephsson?s storytelling abilities as well as the musicianship needed to create a rich and dense sound out of glockenspiel, melodica, harmonium, mandolin and a host of other instruments. Even here, however, there?s a shallow grandeur that the elegantly understated ?Ventill/Poki? could do without. Josephsson?s earlier releases did more justice to his obvious talent. 6/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (19 June, 2007)