Stafraenn Hakon - Gummi
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Stafraenn Hakon

Gummi is the fourth full length album from Stafraenn Hakon (the pseudonym of one Icelandic musician Olafur Josephsson), and is being proclaimed as a giant step forward in his sound. I haven't heard his past releases, but based on the epic sounds of this nine-song, one hour release, I have to imagine that descriptions are correct, as the release sounds as big in scope as releases by a certain other Icelandic troupe. Joined by a slew of musicians, as well as some guest singers (this is his first non-instrumental work), it's a lush release of evocative post rock music.

I hinted at it above, but I might as well go ahead and say that Stafraenn Hakon is very comparable to Sigur Ros, although it's missing the high-pitched crooning of Jonski Birgisson. Opening track "Járn" sets the stage perfectly, with glints of harp and quiet skittery beats playing softly over pounding tom drums as guitars take shape out of feedback drones and other melodies slowly creep forward. About halfway through, everything comes together in a pretty (if not hugely loud) crescendo that incorporates everything from banjo and stringed instruments to programmed electronics. "Svefn" follows, and features Birgir Hilmarsson on vocals as another huge-sounding track unfolds behind him, with thick drumming layered in behind subtle horns, loads of shimmering guitars, chimes, and more quiet electronic beats.

It's not all massive pomp, though, and wisely Gummi plays it a bit more sparse in places, allowing a bit of breathing room. "Rjúpa" opens things up a lot more, giving space to accordion, piano, and banjo while some ephemeral wisps swirl around the edges of vocals by Hilmarsson. There's one short punctuation about two-thirds of the way through, but otherwise it keeps things quiet and quivering. One of the best vocal tracks on the release features Minco Eggersman, and it's mainly due to the vocals themselves. Instead of the higher lilt of the other singers, his rich baritone offsets the sparkling music even more, while the instrumentation is as thick and stunning as anything on the album.

In many ways, Gummi is put together like a lot of albums that cut through similar music waters. Even during the quiet parts, it seems as if the album is always building towards some sort of cathartic release, and while the album is immaculately recorded, some of the wonder has left the room in terms of music in this genre in general. Padded with atmosphere, Gummi should certainly appeal to those needing a bit of a sweeping post rock fix.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2007-08-02 20:37:07