Keeping a finger on the pulse

Grúska Babúska – Tor

in Explore/Issue #4/REVIEWS by

Words by Stína Satanía
The review was originally printed in Reykjavík On Stage (Issue 4)

Grúska Babúska, a folk pop female collective with a melodic, other-worldly sound, released their self-titled debut album in 2013 and B-Sides Grúska Babúska in 2015. Their authentic fairy-tale style immediately drew attention. The band´s latest release, five-track EP Tor, was mostly written in 2016 during a week long residency in Glastonbury, UK, and dropped on the market on 1 September 2018. On the album, the band captures the influences of the historical, mythical and spiritual heritage of the town of Glastonbury, UK. Here, Amiina meets the playfulness of dj. flugvél og geimskip (known also as dj. airplane and spaceship). The result is like an affair between experimental electronica and childlike innocence.

Each song of Tor glides on gloomy tales of winds of darkness, frost, moon and dancing shadows. Grúska Babúska introduce listeners to this atmosphere from the very first sounds on the tune ‘Refurinn’ (‘The Fox’), which opens to the melody of a musical box. Here and there on Tor, brief intrusions of mad dances pop up, like the punch of crisp electronic drum beats straight from the 90s. This style makes clear why the band joined the famous Icelandic label Möller Records, known for its distinctive taste in experimental electro soundscapes. The content of this album is darkly magnetic. ‘Plötuspilari’ (‘Turntable’) unreels within the frames of a stylus sliding across the surface of an LP and brings up repetitions like a record going full circle. An unexpected rap part magnifies some kind of uncertainty, leaving a feeling of mystery suspended in the air. The members of Grúska Babúska use their vocal cords just like another instrument and gracefully create a beguiling impression: you imagine that you are hearing just a single voice embracing different personalities while ranging from soft sounds through rap back to the timbre of voice of just a few years old, which narrates the track ‘Konsertína’. This Múm-like track is a kind of ode to experimental simplicity that makes you believe it was recorded with the use of toy instruments; however, be ready to dance with abandon. ‘Princess?’ builds to a climax with the motif of a heroine, playing with the image of a weak female personality that in fact will bang her fist on the table to reject the idea of playing the toy princess for some random man. This raving bang reveals the track as a great energy piece based on contrasts that lead into a near mute ‘Skuggar Dansa’ (‘Shadows dance’). All the hidden creatures emerge from the darkness under the shining moon in the forest and perform their ritual dance amongst animal sounds to strike a final mark of creepiness and lead you out of Tor.

On Tor, Grúska Babúska reach a spooky mood so effortlessly that it will make you hide deeper under a blanket with your heart racing from the adrenaline kick. You might not understand a word of the lyrics, since all of them are in Icelandic, but with only the top of your head appearing from underneath the blanket, you will still crave another story from them for goodnight. You like mysterious fairy-tales, don’t you?

Grúska Babúska – Tor
1. Refurinn
2. Plötuspilari
3. Konsertína
4. Princess?
5. Skuggar Dansa

Stína has followed her passion to Icelandic music as a music journalist since 2010. She joined then a writing team of Muzyka Islandzka - a Polish website dedicated to Icelandic music. Spreading her wings, Stína started her adventure with Icelandic language and moved to Reykjavík where she studied the language at the university. She also takes an active part in life of the local music scene. Since 2014 Stína had run a music blog that was transformed in 2017 into a printed magazine on Icelandic music.

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