Review Summary: Amiina prove to be capable not only as the string section, but also as their own entity.
For those who consider themselves fans of Sigur Ros
, particularly those who have heard the albums ( )
, it is very possible that that they are already familiar with Amiina without even knowing it. Appearing previously under nearly identical names Amina and Anima, the fellow Icelandic quartet is acredited in the recording of the aforementioned albums and as being present on consequent tours. Given the great success of both records, it isn't too surprising that the four women would soon come into their own.
The 2007 release of Kurr
would unveil the first exclusive full length, a record that boasts the familiar sense of intimacy found in some previous Sigur Ros
works but also manages to establish a delicate presence of originality. While the girls (Hildur, Edda, Maria, and Solrun) are originally a traditional string quartet complete with cello, viola and two violins, they incorporate a number of additional instruments throughout, in the studio and live performances alike. Yes, guitars and pianos are featured at times but play a role lesser to harps, bells, reeds, and even the musical saw. It is through this varied instrumentation that Amiina is capable of obtaining their own niche while still maintaining a sound that comes off as reminiscent.
Even with the similarities to earlier contributions, it's evident that this is not simply a mediocre duplicate or knock off. Within the entirety of the record, there are no excessively dense portions nor an incredibly wide range of dynamic fluctuation. This is not to say that the album is particularly dull or anything, but this is not a post rock album, even if it does mirror some of the delicate of the sort. It is nearly entirely instrumental and each track moves modestly forward, usually at a walking pace and sometimes at a whisper, but there is a consistent serenity that exudes here. Oftentimes its passages, weather led by sighing synthesizers or the glistening chimes of bells, bare a soft and dreamy likeness to an extended lullaby.
Even though the bulk of the material regularly follows an enchanting path of subtlety, the misconception would be to presume the listen as a plain drone of strings complete with pretty accompaniment. Though they may not necessarily be as dramatic as building heights out of a crescendo or the prolonged contemplation of a motive, there are separate moments that will grow to rouse the sleepy nature of the record. Most prominent as a decorative focal point in Seoul
and again in the later interlude Saga
, the gentle warbling of the musical saw adds a unique element of interest. Aside from the piano and synthesizer work throughout, a harpsichord introduces and acts as keyboard accompaniment to the track Lori
. Vocal harmonies do appear on rare occasion as in the later portions of Kolapot
and throughout the majority of Hilli
, the latter also featuring the last vocal recordings of the late Lee Hazelwood.
Musically sound and pleasingly accessible, the lasting illusion of Kurr
is that it is deceptively intricate. Its moderate tempos, quiet nature, and unassuming beauty create a body of work that is easy to dismiss as simple or lethargic. However, without feeling cluttered or forced there is an underlying complexity that proves truly effective when Amiina do reach their dynamic peaks. Even in their most sparse moments, like the nine minute closer Boga
, there is a sweet, weightless sense of ascension that moves things forward. Of course, it is admittedly the sparse periods that could turn the attention of some away. Still, even though some moments tend to lag, Amiina provide a distinctive effort that accomplishes the feat of setting themselves apart from where they've come.