Gusgus – “24/7” (2009)

A while back I wrote that Gusgus’ 2011 release Arabian Horse was flat out the best album I’ve ever heard. Better than Led Zeppelin II. Better than Dark Side of the Moon. And I stand by that statement. After all, it’s simply and expression of preference. And my love of Gusgus started with 24/7.

I fight fire with fire when I’m in this state,
If I can’t find love I guess I’ll hate.
— “Hateful”

On Sunday, October 18, 2009 at about 11:40 PM local time I got my mind blown in a Reykjavik venue called NASA (which sadly is no more at the time of this writing) when Gusgus hit the stage to close out Iceland Airwaves 2009. I knew zero about them going into that show, but their set was incredible and consisted primarily of material from 24/7. NASA was packed to overflowing, which was probably somewhere around 700-800 people, and much of the set done with minimal to no lighting other than green lasers and a stripped down small stage. Even at our spot in the back corner away from the action of the main floor we still got caught up in the vibe. Within a few weeks of us returning home 24/7 was in constant rotation on the iPod and we’d picked up much of the band’s back catalog on CD and through iTunes.

On the job,
24-7 never stop,
Always getting better on the job,
On the job.
— “On The Job”

A lot of reviewers are critical of 24/7, which is somewhat understandable given what a significant departure the album was from previous more up-beat dance albums like Attention and Forever. But for me I went into it with no expectations, and it hooked me. The beats are low, the base is heavy, and the pace is slow for a techo-dance record. And at 52+ minutes and only six songs, almost every track is a long, drawn out experience – the instrumental “Bremen Cowboy” is the second shortest song on the album and it clocks in at 7:58! There’s plenty of time between the sparse vocals to explore the beats, with Gusgus adding in minimalist synths and echo. This isn’t high tempo dance music; this is low tempo, slow burning grooooove music, the kind that will put you into a trance and make you realize that you have no idea what happened over the last four or five minutes.

I burned this to CD for my buddy Tristen who is really into electronic music because I was so excited about it. When I asked him later that day if he’d listened to it, he said he had; “But that guy is angry. I didn’t get all the way through it.” And I had to admit, when I stopped and thought about the lyrics he kind of had a point (though he became a fan of the band and saw them with us at Airwaves in 2012). This is not an uplifting album, neither musically nor vocally. But it’s real and it’s emotional, even if it does come from a somewhat dark place.

Through the pain of the snow,
Is there nowhere to go,
Like I’m stuck in a state
Of no state at all.

As I wandered alone in the darkest night,
Heard this song at the rave
And it saved my life.
— “Add This Song”

The Gusgus live shows I’ve seen since the release of Arabian Horse consist primarily of the band’s newest material, with the notable exception of “Add This Song” which appears to be a staple of their sets. Daníel Ágúst also covered a version of “Thin Ice” on his self-titled solo album in 2011, albeit in a much shorter and more radio friendly version that was retitled “Feel Like Dancing” (which is a lyric in the song), so he certainly had some strong feelings about at least that one track.

Louder than fear,
About to hear,
My emotions,
Echo… in emptiness.
— “Thin Ice”

Ágúst’s voice is hauntingly beautiful throughout 24/7, and he’s one of the truly great singers of today. The emotional tone of the album is a bit challenging to be sure, but the music and vocals are truly fantastic, so if you’re looking for something new in the kind of darker side of electronic, pick up a copy of 24/7, turn the lights down low, and just listen….

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