múm at club quattro

23Dec05

While J. was away in Taiwan, I went to see Múm play at Club Quattro. Múm (pronounced “MooM”) is an(other) Icelandic band that creates ethereal soundscapes that are a blend of acoustic instrumentation, electronic sound production, and crystalline vocal harmonics. From the FatCat records website:

Since former member Gyda Valtysdóttir left the band in September 2002 to concentrate on her classical cello studies, múm now revolves around the core trio of Icelander’s Gunnar Örn Tynes, Örvar Thóreyjarson Smárason and Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir. For touring / recording this line-up is expanded to include Ólöf Arnalds (violin / viola / guitar / vocals), Samuli Kosminen (drums / percussion) and Eiríkur Orri Olafsson (trumpet / pianette / moog / whistling), as well as occassional contribution’s from Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce (drums / chinese harp).

What’s great about Múm is that rather than attempting to recreate their elaborate and delicate recordings in concert, which could easily result in “glowing face behind computer” syndrome, they take their original recordings as a jumping off point for a live six-piece sonic renegotiation. It’s really hard to get electronic music right in a live format — electronic musicians tend to either err in the direction of precision and fidelity to the source material (i.e. “glowing face behind the computer”), or they allow for a spontaneous play that is often intensely fulfilling, but equally as often liable to complete collapse and self-indulgence. What Múm seem to do in concert is present a series of sonic potentialities and rhythmic possibilities as pieces in an open-ended improvisational game that is always moving towards some preceptually complete musical form, but with an incredible amount of room for spontaneity and play. Sounds are generated (bleeps and rhythmic tics, drones and harmonics) and this act of production becomes an initial sonic landscape into which Múm introduces trumpet, guitar, bell sounds, vocals, violin, and other modulations, until basic recurrent harmonic and rhythmic patterns begin to seize their own life and fruit out as fully generated song. The cohesion and dispersion that this method enabled generated its own form of narrative excitement and interest, along with the incredibly beautiful vocal harmonizations of the singers; the otherwordly tonescape of electronic sounds; the insane, dadaesque horn-violin taken up by (I think) Arnalds; and (I think) Gunnar’s or Örvar’s incredibly awesome rainbow balaclava (worn with a short-sleeved T).

Click here for a nice Múm fansite.

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