Monday, December 14, 2009

Mammut – Karkari

Let’s get it out of the way right off the bat, shall we.

The Icelandic origin of Mammut combined with Kata's startlingly original lead vocals will bring every reviewer at some point to make an off-the-mark comparison to Bjork. Yes, Kata inflects her vocals with a freakishly dynamic range, and punctuates her singing with a generous dollop of vocal hiccups, coos, and spasms. But that’s the point where all comparisons should end. Referring to Mammut’s music as being even remotely related to Bjork brings an unbearable disservice to the creative, dramatic, and stunningly punchy post punk odyssey that Mammut and their listeners embark upon.

And that’s what Karkari is. An odyssey. A journey. An epic voyage past the point of no return, where the flat earth ends, and the gravitational field melts away. A place where a lesser ship would lose its way, journey off course and careen off the edge, plunging into the deepest darkness of the abyss. But not Mammut. Comprised of three guys, three girls, all between 19 and 24 years of age, Mammut are stunningly experienced navigators, plotting a course through these dangerous waters with an eye always on the horizon. Through the stop-start, twitchy time changes, megalithic swirling psychedelic flourishes, and haunting post-punk sensibilities, Mammut never lose sight of their destination. Karkari is that most remarkable of all albums, one that reveals itself in a totally unique light with each listen. Lush and melodic one time, surging and angular the next. You can take the Mammut journey endlessly and still make it home a different way each time.

“Endir,” starts off unassuming enough, familiar enough, to welcome new travelers upon the Mammut mother ship. A vamp of a drum intro, followed by the low rumble of a disembodied bass call us in, non threatening. Welcoming. Spasms of itchy guitar riffs suddenly slashes through the ether before the whole world suddenly breaks down into the glorious, previously unexplored world of Kata's voice. And what a world it is. A domain of infinite space and ragged beauty. It is a domain entirely of Mammut’s own creation. A netherworld of postpunk spasms still laced with the driving intensity of all that was punk. The bass rumbles with an focus that’d make Joy Division run for shelter while the guitars attack and drop back, seemingly at random. But really, its all part of one larger, glorious plan. The Captains have control of this ship and at this time all we can do is sit back and be prepared for wherever it is that they may be taking us.

What "Endir" brought in pure unflinching abandon, “Geimpra,” brings in a disjointed Bauhaus-esque fury of darkened beauty. Stark, at times discordant, Siouxie has fled to Iceland and is having the time of her life. Large, funky bass combines with staggering, chunky riffs. Scintillating guitar echoes and dances, the whole song swirls and revolves, elevates and ascends. At times familiar, at others completely alien to these U.S. bred ears. Either way, it’s remarkable. An atmospheric dimension unfolds graciously at the wave of Marmmut’s collective hand. Never does the album fail to capture the imagination, exploding with an infectious charisma.

“Svenfnsykt” chugs and plows, lurching and steaming the Mammut mothership closer to the psychedelic edge from which it may never return. What an amazing song! At first chugging along in a near hard rock intensity, big industrial sized guitar riffs layer on like molten steel added from the refinery. Then in a moment, a frenetic shift sends us racing through turbulent seas of agit-pop. The guitar sound is meaty and beefy, and when combined with Kata's otherworldly vocal cooing , the result is as addictive as ale to a sailor. Big washes of synth effects sweep by in a ferocious current, while the entire vessel heaves and seethes in the rampaging white waters. Then, just as suddenly, the pure funk punk bass of “Gun” literally picks the Mammut vessel up and tosses it into another ocean altogether. Twitching like fast muscle fibers on crack cocaine, spasming like a boxer with a head injury. “Gun” races down a riveting post punk shotgun barrel like a charge of gun powder, leading to the best vocal wails and clicks on the album. A stunning, frenetic song that reaches, and then surpasses perfection.

Don’t let the Icelandic lyrics detour you from taking this journey. Kata's voice wrapping around her native tongue has a profoundly powerful, near hypnotic effect. The starkness of the syllables lends itself to the cooing, creating an otherworldly effect. A brimming passion burning through the golden melodies that still rings out clear and accessible. A uniqueness to the journey that is totally foreign to my ears. It’s a mesmerizing effect, wholly organic and real. I doubt I’d enjoy this album one billionth as much if it was sung in English. But as it is, sung entirely in Icelandic, Karkari has already earned its place on my Top 10 list for 2009.

This is an album the world need to hear. To savor. To absorb.

I’m onboard the Mammut voyager. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know where I’ll land. But nothing on this earth will get me to step off.


Mammút - Svefnsykt

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