Believe in gusGus

Written by Jeff Keibel on Thu, 13 Mar 1997 16:34:42 -0500.

March 12th, Cold Breath '97 in Toronto:

First, the big letdown... The remix of "Why?" by The Stickmen will NOT be ready in time for the Canadian release of "Polydistortion" from gusGus. The final version as released in Canada will be similar to the US version. Both PolyGram in Canada and 4AD/Warner Bros. in the US will release "Polydistortion" on April 8th as a double CD. The bonus CD will feature remixes of "Cold Breath '79", "Polyesterday" and "Believe" (two versions). The catalogue member for the Canadian version is the same as the UK, DAD7005CD, while the US number is 46375.

Now, the fun part... I made my way downtown to the trendy Limelight night club last night. The V.I.P. line was as long as the common people line up and I wasn't going to have any of it! I walked up the the "security personnel" at the door and launched into my elaborate lie, "I'm from 4AD; a 4AD artist is inside - let me in". It worked!! I brushed passed throngs of angry clubbers who sneered at me as I entered and then I quickly mastered the fine art of walking through a crowded club without breaking the GUS1 and GUS2 promo 12" singles I was clutching to my chest.

After scouting all three floors of the club I was able to spot a PolyGram rep sitting with gusGus manager Baldur Stefansson. Although difficult to hear anything over the high decibel dance beats, we had a chance to chat about all things gusGus...

gusGus self released, via Kgol & Anderson, the Icelandic version of "Polyesterday" in late '95. It was numbered as GUS001. As it was only available as a limited edition of 1,500, it sold briskly.

A mere couple months after GUS001 made its' debut, 4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell took notice and began talks of initiating a deal with the band. It's interesting to note it was only after Ivo made the first move that other labels decided to jump into the action. While labels like Mute, PolyGram, Virgin and even One Little Indian may have upped the offers, gusGus were taken by 4AD's genuine attitude and commitment to detail, integrity and passion. Robin Hurley from 4AD and the band quickly hammered down a long-term contract and a relationship was born.

During the second half of 1996 the buzz surrounding gusGus was increased sizably when 4AD began releasing a series of DJ/club promo 12" singles. GUS1 features mixes of "Chocolate" (not on the album), "Barry" and "Cold Breath '79"; GUS2 features mixes of "Polyesterday" and "Cold Breath '79" (a promo CD, also numbered GUS2, is identical to the commercially released "Polyesterday" CD single BAD6013CD); GUS3 and GUS4 features various mixes of "Believe"; and GUS5CD features five tracks from the forthcoming "Polydistortion" album.

Shortly before Christmas '96 4AD made the first gusGus release available commercially. The "Polyesterday" EP (BAD6013CD) introduced the world to the sounds of this Icelandic collective. Further diversifying 4AD's already diverse roster, gusGus are primed to turn heads and move feet big time in 1997. Already, a hometown concert in Reykjavik earlier this year as well as a well received UK live outing with more to follow in North America this summer promises to make '97 the year of gusGus!

I asked Baldur how the 4AD version of the album differs from the limited version released in Iceland. He explained a similar story as how The Wolfgang Press had to severely modify their US version of "Queer" or how M|A|R|R|S had revised remises of "Pump Up The Volume" created. Many of the original samples used in the GUS001 version had to be altered or dropped entirely for copyright reasons.

He describes the 4AD version as closer to the sound originally intended the first time around. It's a much fuller sound and has is far more richer and textured than the original.

Baldur pulls out a copy of the new CD from his bag. It's the UK jewel box version (DAD7005CD) that will surface after the initial burst of limited edition digipack versions with the forty page booklet are unleashed around the world (DADD7005CD). The artwork looks great! He then offers me a cassette inlay for the album. This artwork is really going to stand out on store shelves!

Combining photography from gusGus, v23's Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg it's clear to see how this marriage of creative minds is bearing very juicy fruit indeed! There's a nice band portrait along with what looks to be shots from a gusGus video as well.

Regarding the different vocalists featured on the album, I asked if there is more attention shifted towards Hafdis Huld (singer of "Polyesterday") or Emiliana Torrini (singer of "Why?"). Baldur explained how Torrini is more of a guest vocalist but regardless, no single member of gusGus is given any more spotlight than another.

I was curious what plans release wise are in the pipeline this year and Baldur mentioned that the "Believe" EP has just come out last month in the UK as a two-part CD single set. The release of singles will differ in the US from the UK however. Most likely the UK will release "Barry" as the follow-up single to "Believe" with a possible remixed (by DJ's The Stickmen, one hopes) "Why?" single in the fall.

Singles in the US will start off with the current one, "Believe". 4AD is actively working on getting a US version out soon if all goes well. After that, most likely it will be followed by "Polyesterday"...

I was excited to hear plans of a possible limited TAD gusGus release in the form of a remix album containing different takes on songs and maybe all new material as well. Baldur thinks it'll end up as a limited edition of 30,000 for the world, due out around October-ish on 4AD.

Baldur, a long time musician himself, plans to take gusGus on the road as a group in the summer. He mentions the idea of doing two types of shows - one for the clubbers with dance oriented DJ material and another including songs like "Why?" and "Is Jesus Your Pal?", showing the softer side of gusGus. The idea of a Toronto show obviously made me excited!!

Like a combination of a nineties version of Colourbox and the dreamy side of This Mortal Coil, gusGus are sure to hit it off with a wide group of people.

I thanked Balder for his time and proceeded to get lost in a cloud of dry ice before finding my way to the exit of the club, accidentally buffing the odd dancing clubber along the way. I happily managed keep my 12" singles in one piece!


 1.  Oh (edit)
 2.  Gun
 3.  Believe
 4.  Polyesterday
 5.  Barry
 6.  Cold Breath '79
 7.  Why?
 8.  Remembrance
 9.  Is Jesus Your Pal?
10.  Purple

"As for being turned on by sound, why not?" Track 1 written by Daniel Agust and Herr Legowitz. Sample of Arthur Lyman "Taboo To" appears courtesy of The Everest Record Group. "I shall come when I'm ready" Tracks 2 & 4 written by Daniel Agust. Track 3 written by Siggi Kjartansson, Pall Gardarsson, Daniel Agust, Bell, Smith, Westfield, Thomas, Boyce and Mickens. "Recover from that" Sample of Kool and the Gang "Jungle Jazz" appears courtesy of Windswept Pacific. "Jungle Jazz" by Kool and the Gang sampled under license from PolyGram Special Markets, a division of PolyGram Group Distribution Inc. Tracks 5, 7 & 8 written by Magnus Jonsson. Track 6 written by Siggi Kjartansson and Pall Gardarsson. Track 9 written by Slowblow. Track 10 written by Biggi Thorarinsson, Herr Legowitz, Peter Coyle, Ian Wright and Stephen Cummerson. Sample of Marina Van Rooy "Sly One" appears courtesy of Carlin Music. Marina Van Rooy sample of "Sly One" appears courtesy of BMG Records (UK) Ltd. "The concept is fairly easy to understand" All tracks Copyright Control except Track 3 Windswept Pacific/Copyright Control. Track 10 Carlin Music/Copyright Control. "Why would anyone need to think for themselves" Produced, arranged and mixed by gusGus and Pall Borg. Art direction and design by Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg at v23. "I will come when I'm ready" gusGus photograph by Eva Mueller. Underwater photograph by Paul Bliss. Policeman photograph by Steph. All other photography by Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg at v23. Texts by P.J. Allan. Thank God for Kenton Electronics. [p] & [c] 1997 4AD. Released in the UK on April 7th and in North America on April 8th.

Compiled and edited by Jeff Keibel.

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