Iceland’s Bjorn Kristiansonn spent a full six years following his well-regarded 2001 EP Trees and Limbo to compile his debut full-length, Celebrating Life, and find a singularly appropriate home on German niche label Morr Music. Falling squarely between the imprint’s tendencies for showcasing both the pop-tinged electronica of acts like Lali Puna and Electric President and the atmospheric post-rock of Mum and Couch, this largely instrumental album (mercifully, given the ridiculousness of the Lionel Richie-cribbing lyrics featured on “Dingdong Kingdom”) revels in the collision between electronic and organic instrumentation: hear the way that the gentle two-note acoustic guitar refrain of “Spoonstabberinn” anchors the song’s flurry of mechanical squelches, or how a classic rock guitar solo wades its way through the synthetic murk of “Shoobaba”. Kristiansonn admittedly appears to have a wealth of sonic ideas, with the vocal hiccups that drive “Continental Love” giving way to a mournful orchestral dirge, and “Sushi Stakeout” mixing a lovely Eastern music pattern with an escalating wall of guitar distortion. Too often, though, even the more interesting songs here feel much more like disparate elements than the fully realized compositions they seem to be in search of—occasionally provocative, but rarely arresting—so that for every trace of melodic ingenuity (the lazy, horn-drenched ‘70s TV theme pastiche of “Summer Logic”, the Explosions in the Sky-style guitar shimmer of “Doo Doo Doo”) nothing here ever truly resonates. Particularly given the high standard of quality set by Morr’s steady string of past triumphs, there is simply too little on Celebrating Life to distinguish it among it’s genre peers.
// Notes from the Road
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