Song of the Day: Amiina – Telegram

Song of the Day, The Afternoon Show w/ Kevin Cole
12/11/2017
KEXP
photo by Jim Bennett (view set)

By Beverly Bryan

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Telegram” by amiina from the album Fantômas, available now via Mengi.

Amiina – Telegram (MP3)

Amiina has been creating intricate post-rock soundscapes with strings, metallophones, and their voices since they met at the Reykjavík College of Music in 1999. The Icelandic sextet and Sigur Rós collaborators have an atmospheric musical profile that is made to soundtrack films. So, when Yann Tiersen tapped the group to help compose an original score for the classic French silent film Fantômas, the ensemble simply fulfilled their destiny. They joined other Tiersen-curated collaborators Loney Dear, Tim Hecker, and James Blackshaw and wrote music for a screening to celebrate the 1913 serial crime drama's 100th anniversary. The ad hoc orchestra performed the music live at the screening Halloween night at the Chatelet Theater in Paris in 2013.

The ultimate result of all of this was Amiina's third album, named for the film and released in 2016. Taking a black-and-white thriller for inspiration seems to have brought out a previously unknown brooding side in the normally uplifting and contemplative group. In the movie, Fantômas is a master criminal with a talent for disguise. Tracks such as “Telegram” conjure an air of mystery fit for the famous villain. The instrumental piece starts with sparing glockenspiel notes and humming cello that are soon joined by a muffled beat, like ominous footsteps. An aura of suspense rises slowly like mist before abruptly fading away as the song draws to a close. On the album Fantômas, one passage like this leads into another, weaving a shadowy and dangerous world, but one that is also quite enchanting. It's recommended listening for all fans of movie soundtracks, but especially for those who are fond of the days before talkies.

More recently, the band released at 10th anniversary edition of their 2007 debut, Kurr in November. You can score that (and Fantômas) at Amiina's website. Flashback to 2010 below, and watch the band perform the track "Ásinn" from their studio for KEXP's Iceland Airwaves Music Festival broadcast.

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