This Thursday, the popular Icelandic act will hit the stage at Train – warm up with a bio and look at the history of GusGus. Before going into the bio hit play on the video at the bottom of this article.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You see, GusGus was formed as a film collective in the mid 90’s by Stefán Árni Þorgeirsson and Sigurður Kjartansson – but it didn’t take long for the group to expand and include DJ’s, producers, actors, and singers.
They made some songs – actually, they made an album – which was taken on by the English label 4AD. Inspired by the club music at the time, GusGus, as a collective, were about to take on the world.
The first album (from 1995), called GusGus, was self-released, whereas Polydistortion was released two years later on 4AD – followed by This Is Normal only two years later, also on 4AD. The following year, GusGus released GusGus vs. T-World containing pre-GusGus tracks from back when they were called T-World. An intense start, which, in no doubt, created a buzz around this Icelandic collective.
There’d already been a few changes in the line-up between the first three records, but it’s with the next one, Attention, we really see the, well, let’s call it flexibility in GusGus – not only members but also in the music itself. Where This is Normal was labelled ‘eclectic pop’, Attention (released on Moonshine in 2002) was more simplistic in its rhythms and maybe even more old-school, in some way – which might go well with the fact, that they’d gone from being a nine-piece act to a quartet.
They remained a quartet up until 2008, releasing two albums in the meantime, with Forever (released in 2007 on their own label) not being all to well received by the critics. Now, as a trio, they released 24/7 on the German label Kompakt – with better reviews coming in, and it seemed GusGus were back on track.
By now, expectations are always incredibly high, whenever GusGus are coming out with a new album. What do they come up with next? Who’ll be featuring? How are the songs structured? Arabian Horse from 2011 (also released on Kompakt) was heavily compared to 24/7, which was accused of being too cold, where Arabian Horse had a bit more.. soul, I guess, and ended up being their best selling album. If you haven’t been through it, I’d suggest you do; it’s some impressive shit!
Their latest album, Mexico, released on Kompakt in 2014, has been quite the success as well. Although, among a few critics, being accused of not being able to maintain the high quality all the way through the album. The Line of Best Fit, a highly influential magazine, called it “a more than able bedfellow” with John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts, which was recorded in Reykjavik with GusGus’ Birgir Þórarinsson, Obviously referring to the more electronic songs on that album; take Sensitive New Age Guy as a valid example.
Besides releasing all these studio albums, they’ve worked alongside and remixed for acts such as Björk, Depeche Mode, and Sigur Ros – and being remixed by Danish acts such as Lulu Rouge, Kasper Bjørke, and Tomboy – and they’ve played all sorts of major festivals. Just last year, they took on NorthSide Festival, a concert rewarded with a 5/6 from Soundvenue.
For now, some of us are waiting on that album supposedly coming out in 2016, and hopefully, we’ll be hearing some of that new material this Thursday at Train. I wouldn’t mind it being anything like Sailor Kid, their single released last year.