They both hail from Iceland and specialise in atmospheric soundscapes, so Sigur Rós and múm are often grouped together. That is, however, a slightly unfair assessment, something that Early Birds unequivocally illustrates.
A collection of 15 largely instrumental tracks recorded between 1998 and 2000, this compilation reveals the bare-boned early origins of this group, and the glitchy, child-like innocence that propelled their initial material. Indeed, it contains a composition that founding members Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar þóreyjarson Smárason made when they met twin sisters Kristín and Gyða Valtýsdóttir while working on a children’s play together and formed the band.
While it’s through those humble origins that the seeds of múm were sewn, the eclectic array of sounds on display here show that, from the offset, the group were thoroughly progressive, expansive and experimental, playing with a number of different sounds. It doesn’t always work, and there are a few instances of experimental abstraction and self-indulgence, but there are also an equal number of spine-tingling moments of brilliance. While they might be at their best when they sound like Sigur Rós (as on the wonderful Lalalala Blai Hnotturinn), Early Birds shows there’s much more to them than that.