The McGuire Theater was turned into a sonic Icelandic outpost Thursday night as múm, Sin Fang Bous, and Hildur Gu∂nadóttir treated the audience to an evening that mixed awkwardness, dreaminess, and exuberance.
Gu∂nadóttir opened the night, with a quirky, shoeless bounce to her step that was reflected in her 3 songs. The first was for solo cello, as long tones gently morphed into digitally-processed responses; an entire cello ensemble eventually unfurled. (This ensemble, however, was interrupted by someone wanting to Gmail chat with her; 6 beeps total marked her performance, and her scrambling to close windows after the piece finished clearly showed that such aleatoric intrusions were not intended.) As she added musicians for the rest of her set, they all expertly blended timbres, with the rasp of her cello melding with the synth and trumpet lines of Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson, resulting in soothing, almost gauzy harmonies and soundscapes.
A few of the same musicians performed with Sin Fang Bous, the experimental project of Seabear’s Sindri Már Sigfússon. Whereas Gu∂nadóttir’s set was dreamy in a sort of floating-along-the-clouds way, Sigfússon created a world that was close enough to daily life (evinced by the very pop-oriented nature of the songs) but just askew enough to keep a listener on her toes (unexpected syncopations, extended guitar techniques, vocal distortions, and opaque lyrics). One lyric in particular, “looking at me through broken eyes,” summarized his stage presence: never before have I seen a more vacant look on someone’s face while performing. Most of the songs simply petered out, punctuated by a slightly practiced-sounding “Thank you.” The last song was the exception, which finished with a huge buildup over Sigfússon’s wordless falsetto vocals.
múm took the stage abruptly after Sigfússon’s set. Two of the members came out, sat down at the Steinway, and performed “Ladies of the New Century,” from their latest record, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know. (The majority of their set was culled from there.) A bunch of the same musicians who performed earlier in the evening took the stage as part of múm, including Hildur Gu∂nadóttir. Elements from earlier in the night marked múm’s performance, for better and for worse. There were some incredible musical moments, with wonderfully-matched harmonies throughout the group, especially from Gu∂nadóttir and fellow vocalist-instrumentalist Sigurlaug Gísladóttir. There were also more of the mesmerizingly blended timbres, this time spread throughout melodica, cello, violin, synth, trumpet, piano, and guitar. I quickly stopped listening to the lyrics, though. At times the words were thought provoking, as on “Show Me,” with a desire to “show me the way you worship little things,” but for the most part I found the lyrics a bit inane. Turning off that part of my brain allowed me to bathe in their soundscapes and really appreciate the best part of the show, which was their utter happiness in performing. They even did a bit of audience interaction: Dana the band’s monitor person held up fluorescent signs akin to a bouncing ball during “Sing Along,” expressing the band’s love for this particular crowd. Such joy and exuberance seems capable of melting even the coldest Minnesota—or Icelandic—winter.