As a quirky, several-member co-ed band from Reykjavik, Iceland, GusGus were almost bound to inspire comparisons to the Sugarcubes, though a mid-'90s arrival caused the group to inherit influences from contemporary club music as well as trip-hop, rather than the post-punk lunacy that inspired the Sugarcubes during the late '80s. Associations with a pair of the hippest independent labels -- first England's 4AD, and then Germany's Kompakt -- powered the group's sustained profile from the late '90s through the mid-2010s.
Formed as a cinema collective in early 1995 by filmmakers Stefán Árni Þorgeirsson and Sigurður Kjartansson, the group gradually expanded to include musicians such as DJ Magnús Guðmundsson (aka Herb Legowitz) and programmer Birgir Þórarinsson, as well as singer/songwriters Daniel Ágúst Haraldsson, Hafdís Huld Þrastardóttir, and Magnús Jónsson (former actors all), producer Baldur Stefánsson, and a few additional members. The band's decidedly indie sensibilities led to its signing by 4AD after a self-released, self-titled album was issued in 1995. Among a handful of groups in the late '90s with access to both close-knit dance circles as well as the uptight indie community, GusGus gained support from LFO (with Mark Bell's remix of "Believe") and one of London's most celebrated DJ stores, Fat Cat Records, while playing its first date in England. Awarded a combined U.S./U.K. release due to 4AD's agreement with Warner Bros., GusGus' Polydistortion -- which included ten of the songs from their 1995 album in remixed form -- hit stores in 1997. The more song-oriented and house-rooted This Is Normal followed in 1999. GusGus vs. T-World, consisting of pre-GusGus tracks made when members went by the name T-World, appeared the following year. It was the group's last release with 4AD.
By the time the album Attention was issued on Moonshine, in 2002, GusGus featured a slimmed-down lineup of only four members and an appropriately focused sound. Mixed Live appeared a year later, and the group returned with new material in 2007, funneling its mix of acid-inspired synths and streamlined dance tracks into Forever, released on their own Pineapple label. GusGus then linked with the Kompakt label for a period during which membership was reduced to a trio and ultimately swelled into a quintet. While with the Cologne, Germany-based label, they released the sprawling 24/7 (2009), the relatively song-oriented Arabian Horse (2011), and, after Birgir Þórarinsson gained additional notice for his production work on John Grant's Pale Green Ghosts, Mexico (2014). ~ John Bush