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Puzzle Meryl Trussler , November 9th, 2010 09:13

For many the first encounter with Amiina will have been through Sigur Rós, either as the string section for their live shows or through their film Heim, in which the women of Amiina appear in interviews, hush-voiced, heart-faced and golden. But their ethereality and sense of magic is not just an aftertaste from involvement from that band, nor is it that lazy exoticism we sometimes can't help but apply to the Scandinavians.

Their music doesn't sound like ice, it sounds like warmth. But where debut album Kurr _felt self-contained, an outsider looking into Amiina's snug and active household, _Puzzle seems to describe an entire village of workers, clicking and clanging and making little twee things: tiny shoes, horseshoes, birdhouses. The sound is ever more eclectic, this time aided by the addition of a drummer (Magnús Trygvason Eliassen) and electronics-master (Kippi Kaninus, a Brainlove recs man when solo, the timbre of whose name seems to echo in the steady, clipped rhythms of Puzzle.) Most noticeable of all is the increased frequency of vocals, especially on 'Over and Again' and the crushingly precious object that is 'What Are We Waiting For?' – the former feeling again like a workers' song, sung in unison in the style of Efterklang and fellow Icelandic band Múm; the latter song opening with just one soft female voice, over a rabble of music boxes, synths and violins, instructing so dolefully to “just pick up your shoes and go”.

It would be ignorant to pretend that so much sugar can go into everyone's cup of tea, but to make the album sound this sweet does it a disservice. It is Amiina's most unique talent to use the cutest, the kittenest noises with such musical – and dramatic - precision that the whole is worlds more affecting than its parts. 'Púst' ties its harps and glockenspiels to bass drums and buzzy deep synths and bobs in the middle equilibrium like horses on a carousel. 'Mambó' borrows a melody from an old EP track called 'Ammaelis' and works its bleeps into what sounds like a dulcimer, becoming joyfully militant, march-like. And yet some of the songs are far more sombre than Amiina have ventured before, with closer 'Thoka' sounding almost funereal and abandoning quaintness altogether. Every song still so ceremonial somehow, each track for an event from these imaginary villagers' lives. We try to unmoor these Icelandic bands from their geography but their music inevitably drifts straight overseas to build another: greetings from Amiina, a wonderful place to live.