23 February 2008

'Naturally'/'Feetless United'


Ah, Magga Stína. Icelandic chanteuse, music showcase hostess, and overall enigma.

But unless you read Icelandic there's not much information out there about this bewildering entertainer (and precious little even if you do read the language). We do know that she at one time fronted an group called Reptile. We also know that she was the first artist to sign to Björk's One Little Indian label. And we know she released one solo album, 1998's An Album. Oh, and she's blond. Pretty much everything else about her is a mystery.

I first heard about her when she was hosting a show on RUV (the Icelandic Broadcasting Service) and it was where I first heard two of my now top 10 favourite artists of all time, Mugison and Amiina. My first impression was of her sense of style that came across as an beautiful, snowbound peacock of sorts, but even without understanding her language I was won over by her whimsical voice and radiant presence. A Google search provided the information I've already shared and I was able to track down An Album on eBay.

Thanks to a site that at one time sold her album (but no longer did) I was able to find one track for download, her single Naturally. The first time I played that track I was smitten. The best way I can describe it as if she takes you flying over the face of the waters at high speed and you becoming quite seasick and lovesick at the same time. Such a beautiful thing, and her broken English and occasional Icelandic phrasing make the song nearly perfect. I had such high hopes for the CD that was by then in the post from the UK. Unfortunately, the actual album failed to live up to the single. I found it much too beat-laden and relied mainly on electronica. It missed the mark completely and should have relied more on her voice and delivery. Granted, there is a lot of bad grammatical English in the album which are definite points of endearment (such as the ending lines of Phoning, directly from the lyric insert):
We're going biking all around
Popcorns in the evening
Sailing on our boat
Get off!
LET'S GO TO HELL!
Unfortunately, that was not enough to carry the album.

Or so I thought.

About an hour ago when I was considering all the song possibilities for this entry I decided to check in on Magga Stína and see if I could find anything new. I stumbled upon her MySpace page and of course gave Naturally a listen (really, it is a song I will not tire of for a long, long time). Afterwards, another track played, called Feetless United. I hadn't remembered ever hearing it and I let it play. It was Magga Stína infatuation all over again. From it's looped discordant opening that segues into a deep drum and toy keyboard riff I was transfixed. Then she hit me with her singing that rings with such sparseness and deceptive innocence (Inclouding timings of my eating, timings of my sleeping...) that it makes me forget how fevered and desperate the music really is. Then she harmonizes with herself and I am completely swallowed up. It all comes careening to a string and tympani glacier that comes from nowhere. I sat for nearly 4 minutes listening, loving this music coming from my speakers, so happy that Magga Stína had created new music.

(Here's where Dorothy clicks her heels.) Much to my embarrassment did I come to find out I had this song all along.

I ran to find An Album in my CD collection, and lo and behold track 8: Feetless United. D'OH! Needless to say, I am revisiting this decade-old album and now wondering what I didn't hear in it before. She was massively ahead of the curve with her production and execution. Yeah, it's pretty dang amazing. OK, there are some overly processed dance tracks, but nowhere near as many as I remember. The album just descends into madness, beautiful madness. Be like me--hunt down this CD, bury it for a couple years, and then return to it with all the regret for losing that time you could have been listening to it. That's the only way you'll fully appreciate it.

Magga, I will never indoubting your timings again.

-N.
22.02.08

Magga Stína - Naturally
Magga Stína - Feetless United

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