CAN A musician take time out and not travel to remote location and complete a solo project? Tunng’s Mike Lindsay just couldn’t resist. When the band travelled to Iceland Airwaves festival, inspiration slapped Lindsay across the face like a wet Icelandic fish and Cheek Mountain Thief was born. Setting up studio in a cabin nestled in Reykjavik; facing Kinnafjoll (Cheek Mountains), Lindsay collected local voices and sounds like souvenirs. In some ways, Cheek Mountain Thief became his love letter to the country. The power of theintro should never be underestimated on this record as Lindsay has – inspired by his surroundings – created very ten hospitable tracks that invite you in on first listen.
The album begins with a heavy sense of purpose, with Cheek Mountain marching forward with a skip in its step and with a serious scoop of the sweetest, fey melodies. A booming drum, the slow build of horns and the sprinkle of the most charming notes the glockenspiel has to offer, patter over Lindsay’s lyrics about the land he overlooks; “build a house on Cheek Mountain, wrap yourself tightly in.” Attack is a bluesy track fresh out of aggression with Lindsay’s soft, cotton candy vocals and the local male choir erases any glimmer of hostility with wistful hums and rousing a blur of instruments and monumental vocals. Nothing enters in the standard “ambient” way. Voices emerge with tones of disgust, “they look so ewwww”, what is this? what are these? recordings in a controversial art exhibition or something more vulgar? I invite you to let your imagination soar…
Wake Him is a carnival of woody percussion and the closest your ears will get to a smile. And Darkness is Lindsay’s playtime with some minor notes: a vivid free-for-all of strings, keys and horns ensues. No musical group gets left behind here; you’re guaranteed your musical 5-a-day. It wasn’t just the Icelandic landscape that affected Lindsay; judging from Youtube clips he also acquired a penchant for knitted snoods on his travels, people can catch anything abroad, and unfortunately there’s no travel vaccination for woollen wear.
There’s a more loveable, syrupy feel to Lindsay’s own offering; but Cheek Mountain Thief aren’t worlds away from Tunng. Let’s say, approximately 1,100 miles instead, or two and a half hours if you must know.
Reviewed for Incendiary Magazine. Published online: 11th June 2012