Release Date: Jun 24, 2014
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Club/Dance, Alternative Dance
The production is crisp, snappy and crystallised, designed for perfect digital playback, a complete turn around from their dusty analogue 'Polyesterday' origins. GusGus started out almost 20 years ago as a 12-strong Icelandic troupe riding the smoke trails of trip hop, signing to cult indie label 4AD. Since then they have gone through several incarnations and split offs, 'Gollum's Song' singer Emilíana Torrini was a member in the beginning, they have experimented with different electronic styles and landed themselves on planet Berlin via Kompakt with a unique synth house hybrid of sound.
Still driven by original members Daniel Ágúst Haraldsson, Birgir Þórarinsson, and Stephan Stephensen, along with relative newcomer Högni Egilsson, GusGus continue to refine their song-oriented approach on Mexico, their third album for Kompakt. More direct than 2011's Arabian Horse, one of the Cologne label's top sellers of the late 2000s and early 2010s, Mexico plays it straight throughout. All but one selection -- the tugging, gnashing title track, far from a breather amid the album's succession of emotive voices -- is a full-blown song.
“This is not the first time we’ve seen change / Starting fresh and rearrange,” goes a lyric on the latest from Iceland’s GusGus, and it’s an apt summation of the group’s sound. A lot has changed since their 1997 major label debut Polydistortion. Gone are the spiky keyboards and harsh electronics from some of the songs on that album in favour of a more streamlined sound.
Obnoxiously Sexual is a bold statement to open an album with, and its pretty clear what Birgir Þórarinsson (better known as Biggi Veira) has on his mind, as he talks about his lover touching him in the car as a dark, bass-driven beat plays out beneath him. Lust and seduction plays out, as the lovers can barely control themselves. This is all brought to a new level as sweepingly seductive strings play out, and add a new romanticism to the song.
"When you woke up, I guess you didn't know I would steal you from your girlfriend," sings Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson in what is the most striking opening lyric to an album I've heard in a while. GusGus, Icelandic veterans of artsy techno music, have always enjoyed provoking their audience, and when they do so here, it's exhilarating. Obnoxiously Sexual is exactly that, its frayed synths, skittering hi-hats and rasping brass careening into your personal space.
GusGus have spent their twenty years of existence making a gradual progression from the pastoral electronica of their earlier work on 4AD to something more direct. With an ever changing line up, sometimes nine members, sometimes six, occasionally just two and now a core group of four, they’ve mastered the art of synthesised atmospherics and groove based sounds, and since signing to Cologne techno label Kompakt in 2007, combined the percussive beat of techno with a knowledge of emotive pop culminating in the biggest selling album to date - 2011’s Arabian Horse - for band and label alike. Mexico is a further step into the lasers and dry ice, informed by the body and the mind, dirty dance floors and bedroom action.