Worm Is Green :: To them we are only shadows (ata:digital)

An album of contradiction, of past and present influences at odds with each other. An album demonstrating electronica of the past five years meeting vocal sensibilities of the five before that and an aesthetic hopelessly grounded in a tiny, gorgeous rock planted in the North Atlantic.

It’s a Thursday evening/Friday morning and I’m on a bicycle headed to Talya’s house. My wife is sleeping angrily at home, upset at me for being upset at her (marriage makes no damn sense). The bike originally belonged to my mom, and it’s got trimmings: basket, back-light, non-ass-ravaging seat, shocks; but no headlight. And I’m not just tempting fate by riding without a headlight: coming through my earbuds is To them we are only shadows, the new release, 5 years in the making, by rural Icelandic dream-electro outfit Worm Is Green.

Los Angeles is at its most tolerable after midnight on a weekday. The streets empty out, the temperature drops and the wide roads trade the nervous isolated frustration of the days heat and bustle for an inner silence, a cool melancholic peace. Los Angeles is yours at night, it is a blank slate too large to fill that extends beyond the limits of imagination in every direction. Better and healthier not to think. Better to let the streetlights punctuate your journey from here to there. Better to wear your exhaustion, after all, there’s no need to perch like in the day; nobody cares how many Twitter followers you have now. In this state, you almost have enough space to get some real thinking done, but soon enough four o’clock rolls around and the sprinklers herald the day. The grass and non-native plants get their imported nourishment and all must rise to try to find themselves again as opposed to all others.

Incidentally, this moment in emotional time-space perfectly suited To them we are only shadows. It’s an album of contradiction, of past and present influences at odds with each other. An album demonstrating electronica of the past five years meeting vocal sensibilities of the five before that and an aesthetic hopelessly grounded in a tiny, gorgeous rock planted in the North Atlantic. And yet it also contains a personal reflection and an honesty that rises beyond its sense of stagnation and a lack of focus.

From the eponymous title track through to the sudden end at “With You,” one is struck by the crisp, contemporary and seasoned, yet constrained production. Synths drift from ear to ear with a healthy fuzz and a steady-handed bass presents itself. There are dubstep-wobbles, noise sweeps, and synth-scapes. There are dark moments and glimmers of hope, beautifully colored corners and rooms clouded in introspection. And ever present, the restricted drone of the dual vocals, speaking to some personal pain through bewildering metaphor in monotone. The presentation is confident and effective, but there is a controlled-ness to the album that nags. The album patters, pumps and wobbles. It certainly has attack, and tests the tastes of a listener, but it seems to do so in isolated rooms, and without improvisation. Each part of it seems to be following another part.

That being said it is a very successful album. We happen upon a group of people who are not grasping wildly in space for something to hold onto. They seem to have found a sense of themselves and their tastes. Even with the disjointedness between the vocals and the electronica, between the variety of genres, between expression and technique, there is a mastery here. The album ends up being extremely enjoyable, and does indeed provoke emotion. Standout “The Music” evokes an update on the best of Röyksopp, and the subterranean music-box synth of “Around and Around” cannot be ignored.

Take a Google maps trip around Akranes, Iceland; where the group is from, and you’ll get a sense of the album. Pristine fields of green and faraway volcanic peaks break into a small, sleepy and out-of-the-way industrial town. The streets are pristine and collected, and the architecture demonstrates a maturity in color. Red roofs blend perfectly with muted blues and yellows, and the faded greens of the landscape to produce a sense of contemplative silence beyond beautiful. The music shares the same quality- it can’t be called food of the mind, there is no nourishment here for the lovestruck, the angry, the searcher or the pained. It is beyond pain. It merely exists as a fact of those who created it, and for that I cannot judge it harshly, instead I want to appreciate it and look deeper. I want to hear it again.

So riding back from Talyas after venting my marital frustrations over a couple of cigarette packs and Sailor Jerry, I played the album again. And where the work of Arni Teitur suited me at 1am in a passive mind, at 3:30 and exhausted, To them we are only shadows empathizes. I’m not alone in separating expression and technique, and I’m not alone in loving my influences deeply. And at that moment, Los Angeles, USA feels a little bit like Akranes, Iceland. I hope that we don’t have to wait another 5 years for more from Worm Is Green.

To them we are only shadows is available on ata:digital.

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