Mugison
Niceland

By Ed Chamberlin

 
The nature of soundtrack work is such that the true intentions and emotions of an artist are slightly obscured by the task of matching sound to image. If you haven’t seen the film the soundtrack goes to, you constantly feel that you are missing out on some other sensory experience that should go with it, and if you have seen it the opposite happens: you finding the musical impact of the song indelibly tied to the scene in which it played.

Bearing this in mind would not seem the best way for me to have been introduced to the sound of Mugison – the record being the soundtrack to the vomit-inducingly badly titled film Niceland. Mugison released his real debut, Lonely Mountain, in 2003, but it is hard to imagine that record betraying more of a sense of this Icelander’s personality than this one.

Obvious frames of reference abound throughout, from Papa M, Tom Waits and Smog on the more overtly song-like pieces (2 Birds and I’d Ask) to the more abstract (and therefore more soundtrack-like) pieces such as To The Bank. As you would expect, much of the music here sounds incidental – indeed that is the way it was designed, but somehow Mugison seems to betray more of himself during these moments than during the ‘real’ songs. That is not to say that the songs are not good; they are, but the whiff of ‘let’s make a song for the film’ hangs stronger in the air than ‘and here’s a song i wrote recently’… if you know what i mean.

Anyway, the reason this album works so well outside of its intended context is that the plot of the record has a life of its own. Rather than being a random selection of snippets the music works as a whole, the more conventional songs drifting into view like pivotal scenes in a film, and the abstract, incidental stuff taking you on a delightful emotional ramble from scene to scene. The often amusing rejigging of the I’d Ask melody at various intervals and in various styles adds a coherence to the record and eventually succeeds in becoming sweetly nostalgic.

Good stuff – I want to see the film now, where doubtless my response to the music will be changed forever, hopefully for the better. But as it stands this is some intriguing folksy fun.
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