From Iceland — Harvesting the Fertile Imagination: Múm comes home

Harvesting the Fertile Imagination: Múm comes home

Published September 3, 2004

Harvesting the Fertile Imagination: Múm comes home

With the addition of a percussionist, brass player and string player they have become a veritable orchestra. But orchestrated they are not. The stage is rife with movement, players moving to different instruments; Örvar drops his mouth piano and acrobats to the metallophone negotiating wires, tentatively balanced guitars, and other musicians knelt down on the ground. It’s not so much bedlam as kids playing around in the sandbox. Kristín moves to the back corner, smashes herself against the wall, and coos into a telephone-cum-microphone. It would be pretentious in any other context, but the balmy sounds emitted from this seeming turmoil are nothing but earnest.

“I think sometimes people are disappointed because we are not putting on a show. We are not characters,” says Gunni, one of the founding members of the band. “Our music is of the nature so that people will imagine stuff…we don’t want to restrict the mood, just give people space to create their own environments.” To this end, Bæjarbíó was the ideal venue for Múm’s final performance on their world tour. The band stood in front of a blank movie screen creating a soundtrack for an unseen film. The stage was cluttered with instruments as before, but this time there were other objects like a poodle lamp, tea candles, an old, peddle-driven sewing machine, and two lovely, serpentine Victrolas placed on a pedestal in the back, which have become the band’s ad hoc mascots. What really cluttered up granny’s attic was not the curios, but the sheer number of people who now comprise Múm. Despite the number of musicians, the band manages to maintain a very simple sound. “With a lot of people, we can concentrate and do small things. It makes a better soundscape.”

The soundscape does become rather spartan at time, but never truly disengages the listener. “Sometimes the best way to make music like ours is to leave something out for others to fill in,” Gunni explains. Múm’s music is certainly varied, especially with their latest album, Summer make good. Songs are part lullaby, part dirge, part sea shanty, but what marks them all is how emotive they are. In the dark of the theater or the intimacy of headphones, their music becomes a very personal experience capable of stirring a lot of emotion. And when the oddball in the audience hoots and claps at the beginning of a song or shouts out a request, he breaks a real connection established between the musicians and the listeners–and he gets the stinky eye from Kristín. The future of the group seems rather uncertain. There is a lot of interest in scoring a film, and Örvar and Kristín will go to Prague for film school next year. Gunni will stay in Iceland to pursue his own projects. “I’m happy to be [in Iceland] now. This is a strange place because it’s so small, but that’s really the beauty of it. At certain point you have to leave and see what’s outside. Then when you come back you just know there is something really special about home.” But there seems to be no doubt that the group will at some point come together again and record. “We are changing but it’s not a linear change. I can’t predict what we will make next; I just know we are getting better at imagining something and then making it happen.”

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