Don't Want To Sleep
Don't Want To Sleep
FM Belfast is not really a band, it is a community, a force, a friend. You should not treat them as yet another buzzworty mp3 clamouring for your attention; you should treat them as a potential friend or lover, a welcome addition to your life that accepts you for who you are, and wants you to be more of it. Who are they, though?
For the past four years, Icelandic electropop group FM Belfast have been perfecting the art of reading an audience and connecting with it, using their steadily growing skills to hone a music that catches easily, yet runs deep; an art of performing that can — and usually does — induce unique and euphoric states in large crowds of people, or just in your headphones. It is harsh and technical, warm and embracing and organic, thoughtful and giddy and cool and inclusive.
Those who have ever seen them perform or listened to their début, How To Make Friends, can and will verify this. They will talk about FM Belfast as if they were part of the band. Which they are, really. For over two years now, the group has travelled the world, making friends, taking in experiences and sounds and the world and one another. And now they’ve funnelled it all into a new long player that you need to hear.
It’s called “Don’t Want To Sleep” and it is a logical conclusion to two years of making friends and taking in experiences and sounds and adventure. It is also a worthy successor to their debut, a natural progression that retains its predecessor’s spirit and builds upon it while exploring new territories. It will carry their name further, yet ensure their current friends keep them close to heart.
FM Belfasts’s is a carefree, light-hearted empathy with balls and vigour, an almost aggressively welcoming party.
It’s telling that the first thing couple Árni Rúnar Hlö∂versson and Lóa Hlín Hjálmt˛sdóttir did after forming a band — and their reason for forming a band — was to write and record the song “Lotus” to give it to their friends for Christmas. Their next act was to add two more friends to the mix, Árni Vilhjálmsson and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason. Although these four remain the core of FM Belfast, they will often go as far as draft almost all of their friends to the band; when circumstances allow for it they’ll perform with a many as 25 people on stage.
The line-up complete, the band went on and played some more shows and wrote some more songs. They haven’t really stopped since, the only change being that their ever increasing success has recently allowed them time to focus exclusively on their music — even though all of them have other talents and hobbies that they pursue with a passion (Lóa is an artist and sought after illustrator, Árni Rúnar dabbles in electronics and hacking, Árni Vilhjálmsson is a burgeoning comedian and Örvar writes poetry and prose when not playing football or performing with his other band, múm).
On the basis of their combined experience, imagination and skill, the group has managed to craft a masterpiece with Don’t Want To Go To Sleep. The songs retain the bouncy and joyful spirit of “How To Make Friends”, yet veer off into territories that the band have hitherto left unexplored. There are slow songs and introspective ones; calm, drifting meditations mixed with calls to arms and potential dancefloor workouts. And lots of fun, of course.
Tracks like the beautiful “Noise” and “We Fall” depict serene dreamscapes that still burst with power and rhythm. The understated “Winter”, with its anxious bite and underlying warmth, captures the essence of the overpowering Icelandic winter in its suffocating embrace. “Vertigo” entices and enthrals, “American” bops, gallops and is impossible not to sing along to.
It is rare that an album will make you want to dance while possessing the ability to lull you to sleep (you’ll have dreams of dancing). “Don’t Want To Sleep” is such an album, a friend in early morning and late at night (and on your coffee break).
“Don’t Want To Sleep” is out on Morr Music (World) and Kimi Records (Iceland) in June. The songs were written and recorded by FM Belfast (guests include Retro Stefson’s Unnsteinn Manúel, Borko’s Borko and mighty trumpeter Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson), they were produced and recorded by Árni Rúnar Hlö∂versson and mixed by Kristinn Sturluson, Gunnar Örn Tynes and Árni Rúnar Hlö∂versson. Helmut Erler mastered the thing at Dubplates & Mastering, and the cover was designed by the band and Bobby Brei∂holt.
Haukur S. Magnússon