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GusGus “Mexico” – Album Review

Kompakt (2014)

Continuing to tone down the weirdness of their early 4AD days, ever-changing Icelandic collective GusGus are following up 2011’s Arabian Horse with another relatively conventional electro-pop affair, Mexico.

Their ninth studio effort still contains the odd unsettling moment – the ghostly pitch-shifted vocal which duets with the beautifully ethereal tones of Urour Hakonardottir on the lush deep house of “Another Life,” the industrial ambience which opens the pulsing “Not The First Time,” and the twitching instrumental title track – but for the most part, these nine songs stick to a similarly moody and melancholic template.

Mexico’s default production style can often be beguiling, whether it’s the washed-out synths and throbbing basslines of “Sustain,” the multi-layered trance of “Airwaves,” or lead single “Crossfade,” a vintage Depeche Mode-esque slice of electronica as ice-cold as Gus Gus’ homeland’s glacial landscapes.

Meanwhile, the old-school house riffs and staccato dancehall beats of “God Application” and the dirty bass-pop of opener “Obnoxiously Sexual” prove that the pre-release spiel about “combining their earlier lustre with contemporary debauchery” wasn’t just hollow talk.

Admittedly, the band’s reliance on the over-familiar, not to mention their habit of burying Daniel Agust’s brooding vocals deep into the mix, means that much of the record is indistinguishable on first listen. The lack of strong melodies don’t help matters either, with only the existential electro-soul of closer “This Is What You Get When You Mess With Love” leaving any notable lasting impression.

However, while Mexico might not be as experimental or as innovative as GusGus’ golden era, it’s still a typically classy affair which in the wake of the English-language debut from acoustic troubadour Asgeir and Bjork’s inspired hook-up with Death Grips, proves that the Icelandic music scene is in rude health.

3 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music, Featured


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