I can’t understand a word on Kælan Mikla’s self-titled debut album. The beauty of it is that I don’t feel like I need to. After taking the poetry slam circuit in Reykjavik by storm, the trio worked on setting their poetry to music, and came up with the sound heard here: an ominous, synth-driven throb that makes it clear they aren’t singing about sunshine and rainbows.
The band sings/speaks in their native Icelandic, and it’s possible I’d enjoy this album less if I could understand the words, or even more since I’m not getting the full picture. But I enjoy having some element of the music left to my imagination, and sometimes think lyrics can be a distraction. Instead of trying to piece together the “meaning” of these songs, I could focus purely on this album’s sound, and I loved the way the language sounded with the music and how haunting and mysterious it was.
There is an intensity and urgency in Kælan Mikla’s performance that crosses any kind of language barrier. Even if I don’t understand it, I think I can feel what they’re trying to convey, and part of music’s power is in that ability to express feelings in a very visceral way. Despite the sometimes witchy vocals and the oppressively dark sound, Kælan Mikla also make songs that are enjoyable to listen to, with real hooks and mesmerizing bass lines. Their music leaves a mark, even if I’m not entirely sure what that mark is.