Amiina – Puzzle

Synthesisers are wonderful things, but nothing can match an acoustic instrument for sheer beauty and purity of tone. In the plucking of a string or a cleanly struck bell, there is an incredible array of tones and harmonies that ring out, a complex layering of mathematically precise overtones that gives even a single, simple note its breathtaking power.

Puzzle, the latest album from Icelandic group Amiina, is a love letter to sound. Glockenspiels chime with stunning clarity, the sounds decaying at a luxuriously slow pace; a cello drones on in honeyed tones, set against the sharp plink of a mandolin string. Even as the sounds become more dense and layered, there’s an abundance of space in which each tone can swell and decay, as though each note were drifting away on the night air.

What Are We Waiting For evokes the twinkling beginning of Sigur Rí³s’s Sé Lest, and quite reasonably: Amiina’s central quartet have a close affiliation with them, having performed and recorded with them on a number of occasions. Puzzle highlights how significant Amiina’s contribution was to albums like Takk… and ( ), though that transfer works both ways – there are a great many instances on Puzzle that feel like Jí³nsi’s glassy falsetto could cut through at any moment.

In passing over conventional rock instruments, though, Amiina finds a voice distinct from Sigur Rí³s’s slow-build post-rock drama. Glockenspiels, cellos, violins, harps, celestes and bells are the heart of Puzzle, offering a beguiling intimacy that trades in quiet beauty rather than grand crescendos. The warm instrument tones and the haunting, looping song structures have a transcendent power – Puzzle is the kind of album that steals you away from the world for about an hour, into a daydream world of flowing, ringing sounds. And, like a daydream, it can be hard to recall much of it afterward -there are no hooks in the traditional sense, no melodies you’ll be humming afterward – but its effect lingers long after the last drone fades.