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Plenty of snap and crackle but no pop

MUSIC REVIEW

September 01, 2003|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

We've come to expect challengingly arty and vividly distinctive music from the exotic landscapes of Iceland, thanks to Bjork and Sigur Ros. We less expect it from Brooklyn perhaps. But both locales were sonically reflected at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre on Friday in ways compatible if hardly comparable by, respectively, Mum and Animal Collective.

Mum is the latest buzz band from Reykjavik, and deservingly, judging by this concert. While, as with Sigur Ros, it's too simplistic to say that the band's soundscapes portray the foreboding settings of its frozen island, it's hard to ignore the purposefully creaking and crackling electronics that thread the now-sextet's mix of trumpet, violin, keyboards, accordion, vibes, percussion, guitar and the brittle, airy vocals of twin sisters Gyoa and Kristin Anna Valtysdottir. But ultimately, while the influences of Bjork (minus the drama) and Sigur Ros (minus the crescendos) are undeniably there in equal measure, Mum is not so much the descendant of those influences as the product of the same rich cultural environment and holds the same kind of hypnotic draw and sonic invention.

Just what produced Animal Collective is harder to say. It bears little relation to the current crop of '80s post-punk-infatuated Brooklyn bands, instead recalling variously Faust, John Fahey's more out-there works, Yoko Ono, John Cage, the Godz and the Residents, just for a start. Its brief opening set featured Avey Tare and Panda Bear, two of the Collective's four members, banging rhythmic drones on acoustic guitars and alternately mumbling and screaming through various vocal processing effects against an ambient backdrop of nature and city sounds.

As off-the-wall as it seemed, a disciplined structure and even beauty emerged.

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