Sin Fang - Summer Echoes Album Review
No matter how much the erstwhile brewers of cider try to convince us of the contrary, summer time in Britain is unquestionably the season which brings out the very worst in the nation's Id. Leaving to one side the deathly annual re-emergence of Edith Bowman in our living rooms during coverage of most of your favourite festivals, we're also treated to our friends from the tracksuit nation stripping naked to the waist the minute the temperature nudges sixteen degrees centigrade. And as if that wasn't enough to have you on your hands and knees praying for the shops to fill up with Christmas tat in early September, then there's still the spectre of David Cameron appearing somewhere sporting a pair of budgie smugglers in a vain attempt to hotwire the country's tourist industry. Yep, give me January in Blighty any day.
You imagine that Summer in Iceland is certainly brief, but probably involves hanging out with a crew of ill pixies, or at the very least a process of seeing magical visions which doesn't involve the consumption of a dozen cans of premium lager. Sindri Már Sigfússon would know as he's from there, and having originally risen to prominence - that's in the most generous sense of the word - via his original outfit Seabear, Summer Echoes arrives as his second album as Sin Fang, following 2009's Clangour. And because he's Icelandic and probably had to deal with eating his fair share of herring whilst in his youth, we'll forgive the minor charges of A) Dropping the "Bous" inexplicably from his name between albums and B) His title of his debut seemingly being a play on words on seventies kids TV.
Sigfússon has also been hailed by none other than Rolling Stone magazine as the "Icelandic Beck" - a handle which you have to confess carries about as much weight as being hailed as a Mongolian Springsteen - but Clangour's finest moment, the kinetically charged folk of Advent in St. Ives Garden, caused a few minor ripples in the hipster blogosphere, and for once rightly so.
Fast forward two years later and the aesthetics at work - people with beards would probably call them something like textures - remain intact. At times Summer Echoes wears these influences very much on its tweedy sleeve, so listeners will be drawn into recognising elements of Animal Collective on the likes of Choir and Always Everything, and also to their closest British counterparts The Beta Band on Nineteen. Both were/are renowned for blurring the lines between pop, folk and psychedelia and lighting up the cracks with lyrical abstraction that was more prose than reportage; Sigfússon chooses likewise to generally mask his vocals under distortion, leaving most songs similarly off-centre, but still hazily good natured.
So far, so Year Ten Geography field trip to Malham then, but there are one or two interesting departures which break up the sense of blunted trippyness. Sing From Dream employs what might be generously described as a hip-hop break, whilst close Slow Lights hits the indie button, complete with bona fide guitar chops and synth squelches, before a mid song tempo change then transports us into Arcade Fire territory. Groovy.
Summer Echoes in fact succeeds most at not taking itself too seriously, luring you in with a rich air of ambiguity, expanding your consciousness just a little bit, then dropping you off home later in a cab with little memory of what's happened. Me, I'm on the first plane to Rekyavik.