“The most exhilarating presence at this years Triptych was Mugison, a former Icelandic sailor, whose solo performance – he played wild, crashing guitar while mixing vocals and distorted breathing through a laptop – was a meld of the recklessly shambolic (his computer crashed twice), endearing love songs and epic, disturbing soundscapes out of the Barents sea. Mugison’s electro-shock body movements and raging absurdities only heightened the feeling that absolutely anything could happen on stage, an increasingly rare thing in our pre-programmed, pre-packaged musical age.”
So went part of The Independent newspaper’s review of 2004’s Triptych Festival in Scotland. This feeling that ‘absolutely anything can happen’ is one that surrounds all Mugison’s musical adventures, in fact, it’s one that surrounds him full-stop.
Mugison comes from the remote town of Isafjordur in the West Fjords of Iceland. If you look at a map of Iceland, Isafjordur is on the bit that sticks out of the top left hand corner, a day’s sail from The North Pole. After working in his teens on fishing boats, in fish factories and in the harbour (Papamugi is Isafjordur’s harbour-master), Mugison left Isafjordur for London where he spent time studying music and hanging out.
It was during his time in London that he started recording the sounds that would form the basis for his debut album ‘Lonely Mountain’, which was released by Lifelike in 2003. ‘Lonely Mountain’ was a staggeringly ambitious debut. The CD packaging was equally ambitious with Mugison and his family hand-stitching over 10,000 copies before putting them all on a boat to England. Following its release, Mugison began honing his skills as a live performer. Building himself ‘The Mugibox’, a box, no bigger than a suitcase, that contained all the equipment he needed to go out on the road (including his pants), Mugison tirelessly toured Europe throughout 2003 and 2004. A troubadour for the electronic age, Mugison won fans over through exactly the kind of explosive and endearing performances detailed at the top of the page here. This culminated in a series of astonishing shows at the Triptych and Sonar Festivals, on tour with fellow Icelanders Mum and in support of Super Furry Animals.
Remarkably, in 2004 Mugison still found time to record two albums. His soundtrack to Fridrik Thor Fridrikkson°s film ‘Niceland’ was recorded almost entirely in a church in Sudavik, close to his hometown of Isafjordur, and the influence of the surroundings often nudge the album towards a more acoustic sound. Beware though – Ghosts called ‘Patrick Swayze’ lurk in the corners. 2005 will see the release of Mugison’s second album proper, ‘Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music’. More smiles, tears, love, guts and rock and roll.