There seems to be something about Iceland that generates good music. Actually, there's probably as much dross produced there as we get over here - it's just that we don't get to hear about it. But, fortunately, Seabear have reached our shores and dropped off their sophomore album, We Built A Fire. And it's really rather lovely.
It's inevitable that comparisons will be made between this lot and fellow Icelanders Sigur Ros but such comparisons probably aren't altogether fair on either act. Indeed, it seems rather lazy to do so simply because of their shared country of origin. So what exactly does this record sound like?
Actually, We Built A Fire has an ethereal quality that is often associated with Sigur Ros, but if you listen properly you'll find that it's of a different kind and quite distinct. In fact, it's much closer to some of the later Mum material and has more of a folky feel to it. The singing is very delicate and breathy and sits fairly softly in the mix, aligning it somewhat with slowcore pioneers Low.
There's an interesting mix of instruments on display on this album too, ranging from the trumpets, accordion and acoustic guitars of 'Lion Face Boy', through to the inclusion of a musical saw and a violin that manages to sound like it's had its heart broken on 'Fire Dies Down'. The arrangements themselves are, for the most part, quite sparse and minimal, however, again echoing 'Low'.
We're also presented with a nice combination of styles hidden amongst the pervading ambience of the record, ranging from the Irish folk sounding 'Wooden Teeth', through to the country vibe (due to the use of slide guitar) of 'Leafmask', and the more standard indie rock energy of 'Softship'. But all of these different genres are somehow amalgamated and absorbed by what can only be described as the inherent natural sound of the band.
There's something about this album, despite all the musical influences and not wanting to compare them to their countrymen, that is very Icelandic. Perhaps it just sounds a little bleak and a little isolated whilst somehow managing to retain a warmth in the same way that those other bands also do. We Built A Fire is a great effort from Seabear and a marked improvement on their debut album. It'll be interesting to see where they go next.