Mus – S/T


Easily one of the most beautiful albums that I’ve heard this year, if not ever, Mus’ self-titled CD, which culls tracks from their 1997 and 1998 EPs and adds a few new ones as well, has hardly left my CD player lately. Technically, we review rock albums here. But Mus is not a rock album, even if its music is somewhat rooted in the rock genre. And that’s what makes it so great. It’s different, powerful, and absolutely beautiful.

Ah, how to describe Mus? Somewhere between electronic music, ambient quietness, the orchestrated wonders of Godspeed You Black Emperor, the loungy dub of Portishead, the playful electronic sounds of Bjork, the quirky spaceyness of Stereolab, and the score to a musical lies this music. The band uses both synthetic and organic instruments, combining beats with keyboards and samples to create lush and sometimes haunting soundscapes. I believe the band is Spanish, and the lyrics that come in on some of these songs are all in Asturian, a dialect of Spanish. But they come across as just another instrument really and do not diminish from the sheer pleasure of listening to these songs.

“Nautila” starts things off with soft, slightly jazzy drums, keyboards, sampled vocals, and piano. It flows so well, sounding slightly loungy, a little bit like Portishead’s dub-retro style of music, and a little bit orchestrated. “Tocade” is more ambient sounding, with a synthesized beat, flowing keys, and very light sampled vocals that are at times no more than breaths. This one reminds me more of Aphix Twin’s work. “Avec Alfil” reminds me of Stereolab, using slight beats and odd vocals over a gently flowing keyboard-driven pop-style tune. “Tolos Que Van Casase” finally brings in the vocals, so sweet and soft behind flowing music and a beat that lends the song a sort of dub, Portishead feel. “El Que la na Puerta” is a bit more upbeat, with a more uptempo beat and more playful, almost Japanese pop-style vocals that are somewhat buried behind the soft music and whistling. But then “Duermete Flu del Alma” is different, a little more electronic in a Bjork on downers sort of way. Oh, this track is great, especially when the beats kick in, the bass providing a serious groove and vocal samples warbling away in the background. This is the best song here, no doubt. “Duermete Nenu Deurme” is less poppy and more pretty Stereolab-like, and “Jaccottet” uses organic drums and odd sound effects and looping to remind me of a scarier Mercury Rev. This one, with its little jaunting keyboard lines and cute samples of kids speaking, should really be used in some movie. “Aurelia” uses a lot of soft but deep piano, looping keys, and vocal samples to create a changing, shifting symphony, really one of the prettiest and most powerful songs here. And the closer, “Eu Sei Que te Amar,” is haunting, with the vocals echoed and slightly disturbing, the drums crashing to crescendos and retreating to almost nothing.

I love this album. Whether the band is playing short and haunting melodic works or lengthy, swirling epics, each song is unique and beautiful in its own right. These songs blow me away with their depth and texture, their haunting melodies and imaginative experimentalism. Fans of beautiful and powerful songs could do no better than to seek out Mus.