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Album Review

Having explored lush, arty electronica on Polydistortion and eclectic pop on This Is Normal, the ever-changing Icelandic collective Gus Gus morph once again on their third album, Attention, stripping their ranks and songs down to the bare minimum. Now a quartet of DJs instead of a nine-piece project spanning actors, filmmakers, designers, and musicians, the group's musical vision is correspondingly more focused, concentrating on spare, simple rhythms; ironically cheesy synths; and sexy vocals. Along with their own Gus Gus Vs. T-World EP, Attention's chilly grooves have roots in old-school house, acid techno and synth pop; in particular, the tinny, mechanical beats; linear synth melodies; and breathy vocals on "Unnecessary" and "Dance You Down" recall the spare, icy sound of early-'80s groups like Bronski Beat. The album's harder edge and simpler arrangements make a good foil to the sexy voice of new member Urdur Hakonardottir (aka DJ Earth); while she's neither as ethereal nor versatile a singer as the group's former diva, Hafdis Huld, Earth sounds right at home with the group's new sound, singing such suggestive lyrics as "David"'s "I still have last night in my body." Daniel Agust, the group's other former vocalist, makes a special guest appearance on "Desire," a smoky, low-key track that mixes the squelchy, organic sound of Polydistortion with Gus Gus' newer, leaner approach. Despite the newfound focus the group displays on this album, nothing on Attention is as immediately accessible or pop-oriented as their previous albums; however, the extended, repetitive rhythms, knob-twiddling, and minimal lyrics on songs such as the title track, "Dance You Down," and "Call of the Wild" mark the album as Gus Gus' most dancefloor-oriented material yet. That doesn't necessarily mean that the group has sacrificed all of their eclecticism — the fuzzed-out synths and pounding house rhythm of "IIE"; "Detention"'s dreamy synth-scapes; and "Don't Hide What You Feel"'s Latin-inspired percussion certainly show a range of expression within their new style — but it does feel like the album is a reaction to all the genre-hopping that Gus Gus did in the past. Occasionally, the album's spare, simple approach feels chilly and monotonous, but when it all comes together, as on the percolating, insistent "Your Moves Are Mine," Attention reveals itself as a stylish, strangely romantic collection of club music.


Formed: 1995 in Reykjavik, Iceland

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

As a quirky, several-member co-ed band from Reykjavik, Iceland, GusGus were almost bound to inspire comparisons to the Sugarcubes, though a mid-'90s arrival caused the group to inherit influences from contemporary club music as well as trip-hop, rather than the post-punk lunacy that inspired the Sugarcubes during the late '80s. Associations with a pair of the hippest independent labels -- first England's 4AD, and then Germany's Kompakt -- powered the group's sustained profile from the late '90s through...
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Attention, GusGus
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