múm in The Button Factory on November 19th 2013
Like flames attract moths, winter attracts experimental Icelandic bands – it’s an obvious cliché but as the evenings grow darker and the weather icier, their grand, warm soundscapes help to soothe our ravaged souls and ease the harshness of the darkest season. At their best, these bands are the comfort food of music, so no surprises then that Múm are welcomed here on a cold November evening to perform in The Button Factory.
Support is provided by Glaswegian electronic duo Conquering Animal Sound. Comprised of vocalist Anneke Kampmann and multi-instrumentalist James Scott, their set features cuts from their 2011 debut ‘Kammerspiel’ and 2013 follow-up ‘On Floating Bodies’. Both come highly recommend from this reviewer.
With the emphasis placed on programmed beats, samples, synth lines and a charming vocal and stage performance from Kampmann, there are some very fine moments where they veer into twisted Bjork-pop territory (a comparison that act is probably sick of, but it does ring true). it’s a set that, while nowhere close to spectacular, is solid, enjoyable and holds the expanding audience’s attention well.
Múm appear onstage to a rapt silence, with female singers Hildur Gudnadottir and Ólöf Arnalds looking like something from a Tolkien novel and the three remaining male, bearded members looking like they’ve just come in from a hard day shovelling snow on the Iceland tundra. They certainly have an unusual aesthetic, but it serves the show well.
Opening with a stunning five-minute excursion into woozy atmospherics, programmed off-beats and layered textures, the band soon settle down into the restrained and simple pop of Slow Down – with a chorus of “I’m in love with you“, it strays into being a bit too nice, but is certainly very catchy. The opening salvo would set a template for the rest of the set, the band bouncing between swampy textures and gorgeous pop throughout.
The two singers are an interesting presence onstage, their lighter-than-air vocals harmonising effortlessly and instinctually, although the mystical, ethereal element of their performance is overplayed – towards the midpoint, Gudnadottir performs a repetitive, ritualistic dance that feels jarring, a needless distraction from the sounds emanating from the stage.
Founding member Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason and Gunnar Örn Tynes are real diamonds in the rough. Leading the band like post-rock composers and swapping between several instruments with ease, their playing is excellent and their dry Icelandic wit provides some hilarious, and needed, moments of comic relief.
Despite a lull mid-set, this is an undeniably powerful and mood-enhancing performance, the haunting, cello-driven Toothwheels being the highlight. In a genre that is veering dangerously close to oversaturation, Múm stand apart, their unique pop sensibility elevating and distinguishing them from their many contemporaries – they do far more than just layer texture upon texture. Theirs is a fantastic set, full of warmth, humour and good vibes that effectively lifts everyone’s seasonal melancholia.
Múm Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary