Here's an irony: Gus Gus used to be on 4AD, that one-time visual/aural bulwark of the dark and grim. But now that the Icelandic group have joined Kompakt, they've released their most positively glacial album yet. 24/7 is stripped down in all possible ways: now a trio (of Daniel Ágúst, Stephan Stephensen, and Birgir Þórarinsson) rather than a swarming collective, Gus Gus sound determinedly grim instead of celebratory.
24/7's opening track, "Thin Ice," begins with a full minute of slow-mo synth-freeze buildup before Ágúst's voice appears, and if anything he's even colder than the pulsing programming: "My emotions echo in emptiness / A sudden death of what was vibrant / Not innocent, but unprepared . . . I feel like dancing on the thinnest ice." The next track, "Hateful," is even blunter: over heart-murmur bass and shivering blips that communicate a glancing menace, Ágúst snarls, "I'm feeling hateful / Because you piss me off . . . Tearing down my future / Living in the past / If you can't tolerate my kind / You can kiss my fucking ass."
But sometimes it feels good to wallow, and wallow 24/7 does: only one track, the Jimi Tenor feature "Take Me Baby," comes in around four minutes; everything else is around eight to twelve. It fits: rage this impotent generally has nowhere to go but deeper inside itself, and the music's bloodless sheen suggests a compulsion that the words more than fill out.
It's not surprising that these sentiments are appearing when they are. Who hasn't had a crappy 2009? Chances are that if you haven't lost your job, you're working twice as much to cover up for all the layoffs that took place all around you. Entire sectors of the workplace are being drawn and quartered, particularly in the music world's margins.
There's something comforting about hearing Gus Gus just spit out their bile under these present circumstances—particularly with "On the Job": "Push myself harder till I drop / A little bit better on the job . . . 24/7!" Making music is a full-time job, of course—or at least those lucky enough to do it for a living generally get to choose their work-hours, if not their work-rate. But that's clearly not what these guys are talking about. Even if we were in an economic bounty right now, this is the kind of to-the-bone work that communicates its rage with precision.
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Tracklist: Gus Gus - 24/7 01. Thin Ice
03. On the Job
04. Take Me Baby feat. Jimi Tenor
05. Bremen Cowboy
06. Add This Song