Múm wows crowd with laptop pop

By Christine Yang

After getting off the Blue Line to go to the Múm show, my friend and I became hopelessly lost. We wandered around Logan Square for a bit before deciding to just follow the hipsters to the well concealed Logan Square Auditorium. And indeed, the Múm show, featuring opener Tom Brosseau, was a hipster’s dream come true, as the venue was packed with tight jeans and cutting-edge fashion.

Though Brosseau tried to work the crowd with his minimalist folk songs, the crowd waited restlessly for the entrance of Múm. Brosseau had to dedicate an especially quiet song to the loud section in the back of the auditorium. However, once Múm (according to the band’s MySpace page, it is pronounced miooyyuujm, or in standard English just moom) hit the stage, the swarm of scene kids stood still for a full two hours of experimental Icelandic rock.

The latest in Icelandic exports, Múm follow their similarly eccentric predecessors Sigur Rós and Björk. In keeping with the Icelandic tradition of surreal and ambient sets, Múm entered the stage dressed in bright outfits. Vocalist and founding member Örvar Smárason contributed to this atmosphere by constructing a tubular contraption connected to a miniature keyboard, which he then proceeded to blow into for the opening chorus of “Winter (What We Never Were After All).” The haunting sound that resulted was a cross between harmonica and accordion, and it made the dirge Múm played to the awed crowd even more melancholy.

Their new album Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy is very electronic in the sense that the band depends on laptops to capture the digitized sounds of the studio, but Múm still managed to capture the essence of the missing electricity by putting on a passionate, fiery, and above all musical show. To achieve this effect, the band turned to the use of actual instruments, however varied and diverse they may have been, in their live show. For this purpose, although the band consists of founding members Örvar Thóreyjarson Smárason and bassist Gunnar Örn Tynes, it expands to a six-piece band while on tour. Additional members include a cellist, a horn player, and a kazoo player/backup vocalist. Similarly odd instruments—both traditional and contemporary—played prominent roles in various songs. In fact, all members of the band demonstrated incredible musical versatility as they switched between instruments.

The audience was given a treat when Múm went on to play a new song—so new that, according to Smárason, it doesn’t have a title yet. This song, though also quite gloomy, featured a complex interplay between Smárason and backup vocalist Silla on the aforementioned keyboard-elephant trunk contraptions. Although Smárason threatened that the show would be “all slow and sad songs,” he failed to live up to the promise when the band broke into the inherently happy “Blessed Brambles.”

Múm wrapped up its set with an audience-participation song; Smárason asked any audience members with kazoos or harmonicas (on sale at the merchandise table, along with postcards drawn by the band for 10 cents) to play along during the chorus to “They Made Frogs Smoke ’til They Exploded.” As the band erupted into the shrill chorus (virtually no one in the audience had an instrument), their enthusiasm was evident not only in the merry jigs, but also in their intense concentration and focus on the fusion between musicality and art.

Múm, though Icelandic in origin, still emphasized its western influence when bassist Tynes ended the show by declaring his love for Eric Clapton. If Eric Clapton is what influenced Múm to form and share its eccentric passion for music, then we love him too.