October 26, 2021

Kaelan Mikla Under the Cold Icelandic Northern Lights


How does one describe Kaelan Mikla? 80s inspired synth pop? Yep, there’s that. Atmospheric dance music? Certainly. Goth? Very much so. Proving once again that weird but great music comes out of Iceland (remember The Sugarcubes?), Kaelan Mikla, produces an amazing mix of dark, strange, and mysterious music that can best be likened to the most goth elements of Siouxsie and Banshees, Bauhaus, and Nine Inch Nails.

It is fortuitous that their newest album, Undir KoldumNordurljosum, or Under the Cold Northern Lights, appears just before Halloween. At a time when the days are getting shorter, the weather drearier (at least here in the Northeast of the US), and we imagine that spirits walk the earth, this album ramps up the spooky and creepy. Many of the songs are in a minor key, synth laden, and full of weird vocalizations. Take, for example, the second song on the album, “Solstodur”. It’s full of dark, atmospheric synth riffs but it’s the vocals that make the song as creepy as can be. They can best be described as typically Scandinavian soprano voices, like Aurora. Except, this would be a version of Aurora that was incredibly depressed, probably due to the howling demonic screams behind her.

It’s not all terribly heavy. Sometimes Kaelan Mikla gets down right into techno pop territory. The song “Halastjarnan” for example, could easily be mistaken for a collaboration between Deborah Harry of Blondie and Ultravox. It’s dance music in an 80s vein. “Ósýnileg” is similar in that it evokes that 90s dream pop sound, more like Lush than The Cure or Peter Murphy. There’s no escaping the retro sound of Kaelan Mikla. The synths, gated drums, bass lines, and even semi-hushed vocals are all out of the 80s and 90s goth and dream pop playbooks.

Just because Kaelan Mikla takes a few plays out of the retro book, however, doesn’t mean that they sound dated. They clearly infuse their music with modern Scandinavian sensibilities, like the aforementioned Aurora and even folk harmonies like First Aid Kit. This makes Undir KoldumNordurljosum both familiar and fresh at the same time. There’s even a hint of new age in the background samples and vocals, contributing to a layered effect that renders their music outworldy.

The time for the release of Undir KoldumNordurljosum is so perfect, I have to assume it’s intentional. It’s the right music to play at your Halloween party or on outdoor speakers for trick or treaters. Eerie, disturbing, and weird, this is the music for the season.