Enigmatic Spanish duo Mus has delighted listening audience with their mysterious music for several years now. Consisting of multi-instrumentalist Fran Gayo and vocalist Monica Vacas, Mus started out as a group that created ambient textures supported by haunting melodies and distant female vocals supported by electronic loops. However, on their second full-length El Naval, the duo opted for a more organic sound, as they cast aside the electronics for live guitars, drums, and keys. The result was a dreamy collection of songs, sung in the beautiful Asturian dialect of Northern Spain, which only added to the Mus’ lore.
On Divina Lluz (Asturian for “Divine Light”), Mus continues this experiment in wistful song craft. With slow, meticulous songs coated in warm-sounding reverb yet stripped down enough to feature Vacas’ understated vocals. Yet, despite the relatively naked approach to recording the songs, they still retain a sense of dreaminess and lushness, and are similar to Early Day Miners in this respect. Divina Lluz begins with the minimalist “Escuela Cruda”, featuring a simple piano line, sparkling picked guitars, and Vacas’ endearing vocals. “Escuela Cruda” also sets the stage lyrically for Divina Lluz, as the song spins a deceptively dark tale about death despite its sweet disposition and pristine vocals. The song ends with the cryptic:
“Y el silencio de todos los que ya no estan fue construyendo un patio de recreo, oscuro y frio como el peor doe los miedos” (translated in the liner notes, as: “And the silence of all those that have left had begun to build a playground, a dark and cold one like the worst of all fears”).
In fact, the lyrics of Divina Lluz seem to loosely follow a tale of a death, and the impact the death has on those left behind. When matched with such peaceful and confident-sounding music, the lyrics of the CD portray a story of melancholy, darkness, yet hope within the midst of such darkness. “La Vuelta” is the second track, and is a much more fully-conceived song, with brushed drums, exquisite steel pedal work, and a nice piano line. Following this song are two traditional Asturian folk songs, “Dexame Pasae” and “Sola”, re-interpreted by Mus. The songs both fit in perfectly with the ethos of the band, as they feature evocative Asturian lyrics and chilling melodies. The band effortlessly plays these songs, sounding perfectly comfortable with their stripped-down retelling of these ancient songs. “Na Esplanada”, with its dark chords and foreboding tempo, follow, showcasing the duo’s guitar work and ability to paint moods with their music. The title of song of the CD is yet another stripped-down affair, with a simple keyboard part matching Vacas’ angelic vocals. “Divina Lluz” is another study in morbid lyrics, as the song opens up with the Asturian lament that translates to, “Like fire bathing the white morning in poison, the worst of all illnesses overcame and hushed them”. The remaining songs on the CD are highlighted by the same muted and tranquil approach to music coupled with morose lyrics, and Divina Lluz ultimately culminates with a spoken word appearance by Spanish activist and philosopher José Luís García Rúa, providing a satisfying and thought-provoking end to the disc.
It would be easy to dismiss Divina Lluz as just another slow, quiet, dreamy-sounding release. It would be equally facile to dismiss the sensual and exotic quality of the CD as a result of Mus’ use of an ancient language for their vocals and their inclusion of a spoken word performance by a noted thinker in Spain’s history. But, Divina Lluz is so much more than meets the ear, with its lingering melodies, stellar vocals, intriguing lyrics, and remarkable musical restraint. Mus is one special group making interesting and engaging music, and with Divina Lluz, the band continues in their mysterious and enigmatic ways.