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"Summer Echoes"

Sin Fang – Summer Echoes
31 March 2011, 12:00 Written by Heather Steele

Sindri Már Sigfússon is a man of multifaceted manoeuvres. Since 2007 the prolific Icelander has released four albums, firstly under the moniker of Seabear and also as Sin Fang Bous. Since Seabear seemingly morphed from a solo venture into a swelling septet, Sin Fang has become Sigfússon’s vehicle for his solo material and alongside his newly clipped alias Summer Echoes takes off where his debut release Clangour‘s prisms of otherworldly influences and sounds ended and serves to render a renewed spirit of sound.

With his colourfully-graphised arms and previous integration in the skateboarding and hip-hop scene, Sigfússon seems an unlikely addition to the Icelandic lo-fi assembly, especially when contrasted against the oft-clichéd scene that revels in its pedigree performers such as Björk, Sigúr Ros, Múm and Ólafur Arnalds and their association with the stunning nature and mountain-clad backgrounds that clearly inspire them. Yet these nature-specific elements manage to creep into Sin Fang’s music and artwork impulsively and organically. Whether it’s the constant tweeting of birds throughout ‘Bruises’, the steady crashing of waves heard sprinkled over stones on ‘Fall Down Slowly’ or his forest-laden photographs within the album’s sleeve, these minute details integrate Sin Fang’s music firmly within its undoubted geographical culture.

Yet Sin Fang and Summer Echoes are not completely cemeted in Icelandic imagery. Taking a vast series of influences and sounds, from the Spanish-sounding guitar parts of ‘Always Everything’ through to the RnB circa-2003 stylings of ‘Sing From Dream’s introduction, Summer Echoes is a miscellany of musical inspiration and a record that sees a real departure from Sigfússon’s previous recordings. As such, there is a real sense of transformation painted across the entire release, with songs often mutating in the midst of tracks as well as around them. Take ‘Rituals’, where its coda overshadows the song’s central melody. Or ‘Choir’, one of the only tracks on the record where its choral name doesn’t contain its titular act, instead favouring a cacophonic collection of beats and synthesisers that hark back to Sin Fang Bous’ Clamour and its penchant for tinkling toy instruments.

Unlike many of his countrymen counterparts’ preference to sing predominantly in their native tongue, Sigfússon – both with Seabear and Sin Fang – chooses to sing in English, a technique and vocal characteristic that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. As well as his own vocals, constant cult-like choral echoes are littered throughout the release, most prominently during songs such as lead single ‘Because Of The Blood’. While these numerous displays of collectivity add reams of full-bodied reverberation to the record, it is because of these ongoing collaborations – as well as guest appearances from members of Múm, Seabear and Amiina – that Summer Echoes sounds increasingly less like a solo effort and more like the surging sounds of a group ensemble such as his newly augmented Seabear project.

At 12 tracks long, and with a number of songs approaching the five-minute mark, there are times when Summer Echoes seems a little too long, and buried beneath the booming of brass and rolling passages of percussion there is an underlying sense that the album could have benefitted from being tightened up in places. With his thoroughly DIY methods and credentials enveloping the entire record – and with it his admirable role of homereared recording and production duties – it is possible that Sigfússon’s reign of control over his music has made for an album that could have been improved by a little outside intervention.

Yet length aside, there’s no denying the fact that Summer Echoes is a beautiful album that is richly textured and shows stunning attention to detail within its musicality, so much so that it is an album that demands to be listened to with headphones on in order for each shade of sound and trace of trickling instrumentation to be fully heard and appreciated. While some of the tracks may occasionally suffer from a lull in momentum, conversely it is the varying drumming percussion that drives Summer Echoes forward. Whether it’s the anomalous spout of synthesised beats, used most unexpectedly during the final marching thuds of ‘Slowlights’, or the lyricless, syncopated “bom-ba-boms” of bass voices throughout ‘Because Of The Blood’ the thumps and thrashes of tribal beats and rattling toy-shop sounding timpani are integral to keeping this record in motion.

Although Sigfússon may be considered as an understated if not fully-fledged antidote to the bewitching music and nature-laden sonance of his homeland, his musical output still retains the cultural charm and classic characteristics that make Icelandic music so significant. With Summer Echoes and Sigfússon’s new identity as Sin Fang he both demonstrates his sonic scope and breadth of techniques as well as his immense talent as a DIY all-rounder. Those hoping find a solitary Sigfússon akin to his solo Seabear material that this new alias brings may be a little disappointed, but otherwise Summer Echoes shows exactly how a homegrown, fully-fleshed and dexterous record can be accomplished by just one talented man in a short space of time.

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