múm [2008]

The Independent
San Francisco, CA
26 April, 2008

“We ah moom”. With that thick yet delicate Icelandic accent, the show began.

You listen to a band for years. You grow familiar with their music, but you never get around to seeing them live. You suspect that they might be amazing in person. And then one day, you finally see them perform, and everything changes.

Everything changed for me and múm tonight. It was a warm Summer-in-April night and the walk down Divisadero to the Independent was nothing short of delightful.

The first thing I noticed on stage was the real, live piano. And then the many and varied instruments began to collect themselves: cello, trumpet, two violins, guitars, melodicas, and so much more. Before the night ended, we were treated to a harmonica trio that segued seamlessly into a kazoo quartet. Really. Not just alliteration happy fun time.

Yes, their accents, their attire, their very presence was positively charming in its polite otherness, but there is so much more to múm. First and foremost, they are amazing musicians, especially the drummer, Samuli Kosminen, who awed the crowd time and time again with his ?uestlove-like flourishes and “that’s gotta be a sampler” technique.

But taking a step back for a moment for the uninitiated, múm is an eclectic mix of eight musicians who manage to find the perfect balance between acoustic and electronic. And from their keyboards and other mechanized contraptions, they coax organic sounds that are too real to be described as effects: a wash of water droplets and bullfrog croaks that carry you gently into their enchanting tales of moonlight and earthly delights.

It is the spectacular blending of seemingly contrasting elements that brings this band’s performance to such a high level. Into a moment of amazingly restrained Balkan-inspired folk melody comes crashing a blustering drum and bass line and it’s somehow perfect. Like a Tim Burton movie scored by both Elfman and RZA, it’s an inspired and inspiring melding of sound and emotion.

At the show’s conclusion, all eight band members bowed together and individually, again and again, their faces beaming with appreciation for the raucous, sustained applause. It was a mutual love-fest and it was good.

It took me 5+ years to finally see múm. It’s a mistake I will not again make.