The vocabulary of post-punk is one that shifts, but never bends. Its album reviews – certainly this side of ‘Silent Alarm’ – are littered with the kind of abrasive descriptors that suggest the album may also function as a rudimentary bandsaw: jagged, angular, serrated, combined with a mitre fence for accurate repetitive cuts. Thank heavens for Mammút then, whose fourth album ‘Kinder Versions’ is equally arch at its edges and swollen with unkempt joy in the middle.
It’s a deliberate step out, too. Singer Katrína Kata Mogensen (whose dad Birgir, we feel obliged to mention, played bass with Björk in ‘80s post-punk pioneers Kukl) formerly sang in Icelandic, but made the conscious decision to start singing in “an international language”. They also signed to Bella Union, and what a perfect marriage that proves to be: like founder Simon Raymonde’s dreampop deities Cocteau Twins, or occasionally ‘Spirit of Eden’-era Talk Talk, Mogensen’s exploratory vocals shine a light across even the darkest corners of the record.
Certainly ‘We Tried Love’ deserves to rank alongside ‘The Rainbow’ in the sprawling, pristine opener stakes; if anything, it sets the bar impossibly high for the rest of the album to compete. Mogensen’s pitch-black sarcasm (“Did I light your body on fire? / Then I must owe you a dance in my rain…”) is reward enough, but gradually gives way to a firework display of sincerity: “I love you,” she cries into the exploding din, “I love you.” As the track feints an ending before bursting back into colour, the feeling is entirely mutual.
While the rest of the record sometimes feels a little slight, and there are moments where ideas seem thin on the ground, there’s enough charm and innovation scattered across the ensuing 32 minutes to keep it interesting. ‘The Moon Will Never Turn on Me’ and ‘Walls’ are full of cinematic twists, while ‘Sorrow’ provides a brutal finale, bassist Ása Dýradóttir and drummer Andri Bjartur Jakobsson tearing the track apart as the album clatters to an end.
‘Kinder Versions’ may not be a fully formed classic, but it demonstrates that the band’s ambitions are no empty threat. “We crave to move further,” Mogensen stated recently, and there should be no doubt that on this evidence, Mammút are capable of achieving just about anything.
Words: Matthew Neale
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