Jónsi has become a master of post-rock textural dynamism, but on his first solo record in a decade he delves into the rugged terrain of abrasive electronic experimentation to add a sharper edge to his atmospheric pop.
Enlisting the production of PC Music founder A. G. Cook, ultra-synthetic wails and blasting percussion inject an unrelenting caustic force into Jónsi’s signature sound and musings. On title-track ‘Shiver’, this is used with delicate refinement to complement the song’s lyrical intimacy and tone.
But when taken to the extreme, the wild experimentation becomes an unwelcome distraction. The waspish beats and buzzing synth risers on ‘Wildeye’ serve more as impressive timbral demonstrations than engaging refrains, distracting from the melodic prowess and glacial textures provided elsewhere. And when this overt exploration subsides in ‘Grenade’ and ’Beautiful Boy’, it gives way to twee lyricism rather than compelling, emotive meditations.
Elizabeth Fraser lends a phantasmal vocal presence on ‘Cannibal’, and Robyn features on the rhythmically enthralling, if somewhat jarring, EDM-soaked ‘Salt Licorice’. But the record is unmistakably Jónsi, especially with his ‘Hopelandic’ language making several appearances. ‘Shiver’ provides an enjoyable glimpse into Jónsi’s direction, but struggles to balance the tonal dichotomies of abrasive electronic freak-outs and blissful melancholia central to the album’s appeal.
Words: Callum Bains
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