The fact that Múm wrote the music to its most recent album in the middle of Iceland’s economic meltdown and political upheaval adds poignancy to the already melancholy beauty of “Illuminated.” Against a bed of mystical tinkling and mysterious vocal arpeggios, “Illuminated” doesn’t so much start as float into being. The extended chord progression described by the angelic arpeggios becomes the framework of this soothing but enigmatic song. A minute passes before front man Gunnar Örn Tynes begins a lyrical exploration of the central chord progression, a 30-second vocal segment that we hear just twice, the second slightly altered from the first: in both cases, a dreamy, impressionistic account of a man falling off his bike, into the snow, and then melting the snow and drinking it.
There is nothing to analyze here intellectually. The song floats into being and floats out of being. A man falls in the snow, illuminated. Voices sing wordlessly, unusual keyboards play, and a string quartet. Somewhere a country is falling apart. Somewhere else someone falls off a bicycle into the snow.
You’ll find “Illuminated” at the tail end of Múm’s latest album, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know, the band’s fifth. MP3 via Better Propaganda.