Margeir: Blue Lagoon Soundtrack 3

Presented with a double-CD mix collection, one automatically expects it to conform to the standard format of a Balance-styled release, with each disc a seventy- to eighty-minute mix of club-oriented material. The third installment in DJ Margeir Ingólfsson's Blue Lagoon Soundtrack series deviates from that tradition in a most refreshing way by preceding its club-styled set with a mix of melancholy pop songs (the latter is credited to Margeir alone whereas the second is credited to Gluteus Maximus, his outfit with GusGus's President Bongo). An Icelandic spirit infuses the first disc in particular, given the inclusion of ‘60s Icelandic classics and artists such as Ásgeir and Hljómar. But Blue Lagoon Soundtrack 3 is no retro exercise as artists such as Recondite and Gus Gus are featured, too. (The Blue Lagoon, incidentally, refers to one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, a geothermal spa whose warm waters, rich in minerals like silica and sulphur, purportedly help people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis).

Margeir's opening disc includes no shortage of electronic pop gems, with fifteen tracks by the likes of Tuxedomoon, New Look, Ry & Frank Wiedemann, and Kasper Bjørke woven into a smooth flow. Ásgeir inaugurates the set with the affectingly melancholy “Heimförin,” a plaintive song whose stirring melodies convey powerful emotion regardless of one's fluency in the language. Opening the release with a downtempo vocal ballad (and then following it with more of the same) might seem to be a disarming move on Margeir's part, but the choice proves to be an inspired one when considered in the larger context; certainly the strategy allows the listener to ease into the release comfortably.

Holger Zilske's “To Them to Me” perpetuates the downtempo vibe of the opener with another sultry ballad before the ‘60s-styled folk of Hljómar's “Ástarsæla” works its own particular magic. It's a string-drenched vocal piece that admittedly your grandmother would like, though that's no damning indictment of the song itself, whose yearning splendour is lovely. While most of the tracks are vocal-based, Margeir changes things up by threading a small number of electronic instrumental settings into the design, a wise move in that an episode such as Recondite's “Tie In,” though still restrained in tone, provides a break from the vocal material. It bears worth noting, too, that the opening disc isn't without its clubby moments, as the bass thrust of Bob Moses' “Far From the Tree” and Tonik's remix of Sísý Ey's “Ain't Got Nobody” prove. In fact, as the opening set unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that Margeir has sequenced it so that it gradually evolves from ballad-styled beginnings into something funkier and groove-focused.

Gluteus Maximus immediately establishes the second half's effervescent tone by starting with Luomo's “Tessio,” a classic house track whose uplifting soulfulness is as infectious today as when it first appeared on Vocalcity in 2000. The quality level remains high as the mix makes its way through a splendid DJ Koze remix of Matthew Herbert's “It's Only” (taken from 2001's Bodily Functions and distinguished by a luscious vocal from Dani Siciliano), a Donato Dozzy treatment of Tin Man's “Nonneo,” and Ten Walls' “Gotham,” a modern classic that weds a crisp house pulse to a gothic synth theme that, to these ears, recalls Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, strange as that might seem. The emphasis in the second half largely shifts to instrumental cuts, though a few vocal tracks do appear, among them Gluteus Maximus's “Everlasting,” whose clockwork house swing receives a powerful boost from Högni Egilsson's singing, and Raz Ohara's emotive “True Love Will Find You in the End.” Ultimately, disc two, as strong as its thumping tracks are, is admittedly the less compelling of the halves, simply because it adheres to a more familiar mix concept. It's the melancholy pop songs on disc one that truly make Blue Lagoon Soundtrack 3 stand out.

July 2014