2018 was a breakthrough year for Reykjavik-based post-punk/industrial act and JOVM mainstays Kælan Mikla— Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir (synths, vocals), Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrysdóttir (bass), and Laufey Soffía Þórsdóttir (vocals): The Cure’s Robert Smith championed the Icelandic trio, and handpicked them to open for the legendary British act’s festival stops through the UK and US. The Icelandic post punk outfit played that year’s Roadburn Festival, and they toured with King Dude. Interestingly enough, all of that happened before the release of their critically applauded third album Nótt eftir nott.
Undir Köldum Norðumljósum, the Reykjavik-based trio’s soon-to-be released, Barði Jóhannsson-produced fourth album is slated for release next week through their longtime label home Artoffact Records. Undir Köldum Norðumljósum reportedly sees the trio crafting lush and cinematic material centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, ethereal vocals sung in their native Icelandic, spine-chilling background screams, relentless motorik grooves and programmed drums while pulling the listener into their unique world full of folklore, fairytales, magic, spells and mysticism. The album will also feature a guest spot from Alcest, who toured with the trio across the European Union before the pandemic.
In the lead-up to the album’s release I’ve managed to write about three of the album’s released singles:
- “Sólstöður,” a brooding and cinematic track centered around droning and shimmering synths, nightmarish screams and an ethereal and gorgeous vocal melody. Sonically, “Sólstöður,” evokes horror soundtracks — especially those featuring witches and demons slinking out into the night to perform ancient rituals involving human or animal sacrifices. “’Sólstöður’ is an ode to the darkest night of the year, when witches summon winter spirits in the frozen vastness of Icelandic landscapes,” the members of the Icelandic trio explain in press notes. “The song represents the strength of unity, Kælan Mikla in its truest form, fueled by the power of harsh and raw nature.”
- “Ósýnileg,” a dance floor friendly track centered around shimmering and atmospheric synth arpeggios, relentless motorik grooves, rapid fire, four-on-the-floor beats and blood curdling screams in the background. Interestingly, the track manages to evoke strobe lit discos and howling wintry winds and unexplained phenomena simultaneously.
- “Stormurinn,” a decidedly widescreen take on the sound that has won them attention internationally: While you’ll still hear shimming synth arpeggios, rapid fire four-on-the-floor, motorik grooves and razor sharp hooks paired with the trio’s ethereal vocals, you’ll also hear some a gorgeous flute arrangement and howling winds, which evoke Icelandic’s stormy and unpredictable weather.
Undir Köldum Norðumljósum‘s fourth and latest single is the slow-burning and brooding “Hvítir Sandar,” a collaboration with French act Alcest. Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir’s hauntingly ethereal vocals float over a stormy mix of glistening and icy synths and industrial clang and clatter.
“‘Hvítir Sandar’ is about feeling like you’re being defeated by your inner faults and demons. It’s about self-acceptance,” the Icelandic JOVM mainstays explain in press notes. ” Even if you carry a darkness within, it’s what makes you who you are, and you shouldn’t have to change for other people.”
“We felt really honored when Kælan Mikla offered us to be guests on their song ‘Hvítir Sandar,'” the members of Alcest say in press notes. “Alcest and Kælan Mikla toured together in 2020 and from the start we definitely saw connection between the two bands, despite the stylistic difference. ‘Hvítir Sandar’ is one of our favorites on the album and before even starting to work on it we had a vision of what the aesthetics of Alcest could bring to the song. We are so proud of how it turned out and we hope that the fans of Kælan Mikla will enjoy this collaboration just as much as we did!”
Directed by Máni Sigfússon, the recently released video for “Hvítir Sandar” continues a run of gorgeous and cinematically shot and incredibly eerie visuals paired with computer generated graphics.
Album pre-order is available here: https://kaelanmikla.bandcamp.com