Kippi Kaninis - Happens Secretly

Nick Lewis 02/11/2009

Rating: 3.5/5

Happens Secretly is an intriguing record. It reveals an artist struggling to emerge from the cocoon of Icelandic electronica into his own unique territory. Kippi Kaninis (aka Gudmunder Vignir Karlsson) combines the best of his home country: the skittering digital beats of Múm and the warm keyboard sounds of early Sigur Rós with the sounds of great British electronica - the controlled driftiness Boards of Canada and the organic sonics of Mira Calix.

What sets him apart is his somewhat larger sampling net. On A Soft Living Thing and This Note is -D he reveals a healthy interest in classical music, particularly if played on a church organ; whereas on Yfirskin and Refrain he makes excellent use of klezma and Middle Eastern vocal samples.

Unfortunately his greatest strength is also his biggest problem. The classical samples are often thoughtlessly chopped up as if to say 'here is a classical sample, isn't that cool? Here, I chopped it up to make it sound electronic, aren't I clever?' but without making a new melody. The result is a great sound that doesn't quite work compositionally, and although he manages to cover it up with his lovely classical style singing (at times oddly reminiscent of Zachary Condon of Beirut) it's hard to shake the feeling that Karlsson hasn't quite figured out how to effectively marry his influences; and dare I say it, on occasion Happens Secretly is not entirely like the first electronic experiments of a Music Technology A Level student.

It's a small point though, and by and large there is a real subtle mastery of ambience going on here: Whyshouldtheyounghavefaith in particular ebbs and flows with a delicate menace and surprisingly brilliant use of jew's harp not heard since…well…

Most importantly, if like me, you like electronica, then, like me, you'll probably find that it's simply impossible to resist the charms of electronica from Iceland. I don't know what it is, but those Icelanders are particularly talented at making stunning, warm and yet cold, digital soundscapes. Kippi Kaninis is no different.