Benni Hemm Hemm

There's a lot of music being made at the moment that incorporates brass but none, I suspect, which has put it to such central and good use.



Benni Hemm Hemm


Morr Music from Iceland. Is everyone in Iceland in a band? And mores the point, why are they all so good at it? Opener, BeginningEnd, is a quietly euphoric song that sounds like it could have come from the Geographic label. Gentle brass plays over chiming percussion and a strummed guitar. The same refrain is played over and over and each time an extra element is added such as choir-like voices. It's a bobby-dazzler of an opener and makes you desperately want to like the rest of the album. Beygja Og Beygja uses the same set of instruments but this time there are vocals too. Sung in Icelandic (I presume) they interrupt the song briefly before all the instruments join in and the result is another sunny upbeat pop song. A part of me wishes all songs were sung in foreign (or made-up) languages. We'd lose a few great lyrics but a great deal more bad ones and, more importantly, all the songs would become more our own as we created our own meanings.


The Doomed The Damned features guitar and harmonised voices and reminded of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci at their most 'normal'. Fight is sung in English and takes the mood down a peg or two. It starts off with a sad voice and a strummed guitar. Then the song explodes into life with soaring (and woozy) brass and steel guitars. It's a kind of Icelandic country song, I guess. I Can Love You In a Wheelchair Baby raises an inappropriate smile (but not in the same way that Jim O'Rourke's Halfway to a Threeway did). A disarming and simple love song it is still not quite right. Ki-Ui-Po continues the run of brass-led upbeat pop songs. Another naïve song that puts a smile on your face it is so heartfelt that it is almost funny. And when the subject of the song is revealed to be his Hawaiian sweetheart (with Hawaiian guitar signalling this) then one assumes that the tongue is firmly planted in cheek. The band rock out on Sumarnott, again in an ecstatic way and it even features an electric guitar solo (although it sounds as though it comes at you directly from the 1950s).


It is very rare to hear an album as much fun as this, and which sounds like the people making it had fun too. There's a lot of music being made at the moment that incorporates brass but none, I suspect, which has put it to such central and good use. The records brims over with influences but all are subsumed under the overall sound. Til Eru Frae sounds at various points like a sixties easy listening cover, a folk song and a Tropicala song. At the end it puts all the pieces together, complete with soaring male voices, to make something that, again, puts a big stupid smile on your face. And so it goes on - Sweaty in the Summer even has a comedy drum solo opening. And it ends, as it began, just 30 odd minutes later, with BeginningEnd. Beguiling, disarming, and at times just plain silly, this is a record that mixes the pastoralism of the Gorkys with the knowing country songs of Lee Hazelwood, with the pop sensibility of Sufjan Stevens with...well, with all sorts of stuff really. And if you hadn't guessed already, it's great.


Words: Chris Dawson.