Review Summary: Modern Post Punk, from an unlikely source.
Flashback approximately one year. Monday morning? Check. Raining? Check. Entering building drenched to begin fairly monotonous job? Check. Everything was in place for this to be an irritatingly standard day at the beginning of a particularly tedious week. Thankfully, sometimes in life, you get thrown a curveball. Be it in the form of a surprisingly humorous, varied day, or in this case a colleague leaving who turns out to be very liberal with their music collection, it is almost always appreciated. Enter Mammut, a post punk outfit from Reykjavik, Iceland, and their debut album Karkari. Didn’t see that one coming.
Given the Icelandic connection, your initial thoughts may conjure a certain Sigur Ros, a band whose success and popularity mean they need no introduction. Similarly to Sigur Ros, Mammut’s vocals are primarily in their native tongue; however this is where any comparisons abruptly end. Featuring a female lead singer and a rather orthodox set up of two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer; Mammut’s sound manages to be anything but. With tones, riffs and basslines harkening back to Joy Division and early day Interpol, their roots are firmly in the Post Punk camp. For the most part, they manage to successfuly convey the darker edge associated with such acts, but do so in a more stripped down, modern, and accessible package.
Reaching more frantic speeds and soaring heights than Ian Curtis or Paul Banks ever dared, lead singer Kata puts an energetic spin on conventional Post Punk vocals and possesses great originality. Ranging from almost sickly sweet whispered vocals on title track and ballad ‘Karkari’, to rapid, almost venomously spat words on lead single ‘Svefnskyt’, Kata often proves to be to focal point to all that blossoms on ‘Karkari’. Although the rest of the band shines intermittently, the most distinct performer is bass player Asa, whose excellent melodic basslines provide the platform for most of the material here. Comparisons to Peter Hook would perhaps see the mark overstepped somewhat, but her influence on the sound of the band and the quality she brings are decidedly ‘Hook-esque’. Be it in the form of the round bassline on album highlight ‘Gun’, or the solid foundations she lays on ‘Svefnskyt’, the guitar work and drumming that builds around it is certainly thankful for her presence.
Mammut are at their best here when they are either galloping toward the finish line at full pace, or when they jam the brakes on completely and let Kata shine. The awkward mid tempo moments in between are where the pitfalls of the album exist, as they only ever serve to stunt the flow of the album instead of acting as a reprieve. ‘Radilaekur’ is one such mid tempo track. It is not completely devoid of quality moments, as evidenced by the effective intertwined guitar work by Alexandra and Arnar, however its overall quality is significantly lower than the majority of other tracks on offer here.
A female fronted Icelandic Post Punk band may not be what you expected to listen to today, but they may well be the curveball you were hoping for.