Grúska Babúska ~ Tor

Filled with music boxes, glockenspiel and peculiar percussion, the latest release from Icelandic female trio Grúska Babúska bubbles with abundant charm.  This is the same band whose debut was a USB stick embedded in a babushka doll.  Much has happened since then, including the birth of a few children, but their childlike sound should make for some happy nurseries.  We’d love to see a tour with Amiina and Haiku Salut, two other likeminded female bands; perhaps with the 2002-2004 lineup, múm might be included in the mix as well.

This being said, there’s never any telling where the music of this band may lead.  The EP contains a bit of sideways rap (“Plötuspilari”); samples of Drax insisting, “I am not a princess!” (“Princess”); and field trips into modern composition and dance.  The songs were inspired by a residency at Glastonbury, where the trio delved into history and myth, from goddesses to Grail.  Perhaps that’s why the music sounds so ancient and new, like a transmission from a wooded dream.  The Icelandic vocals provide the impression of fairy tales spoken by a fire, along with a warning not to make bargains with Huldufólk.  Lead single “Refurinn” seems to refer to a folkloric Icelandic novel by Sólveig Pálsdóttir, which was written about the disappearance of a young woman in the fjords.  As the track progresses, it moves from calm chimes to wild drums, animal sounds and hyperactive percussion, mirroring the trajectory of the thriller.  In contrast (although appealingly), “Plötuspilari” simply means “record player.”  Again, the piece builds slowly, starting with a sound that imitates an amplified needle before switching gears to adopt a club vibe.  Part of the song seems to be in English; the closing words are either “I’ll make a scene” or “a magazine.”  The interpretation is less important than the use of repetition as texture.

“Skuggar dansa (“Shadows dance”) conjures images of shadow lamps and rituals by roaring fires.  It’s a mysterious way to end ~ a hint of danger just before bedtime.  One wonders how little children ever got to sleep in the old days.  Yet the strength of the imagination is that it also conjures heroines; as the young ones sleep, perhaps they feel protected by the old goddesses, whose power increases whenever they are remembered.  (Richard Allen)

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