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.