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- Reardon Smith Theatre, »
- Múm »
Finding any venue befitting otherworldly Icelandic troupe múm is a tricky task, a trade off that this evening leaves onlookers sans any form of bar in a Cardiff University lecture hall. It’s an anomaly curtain raiser Gravenhurst – tonight simply self-effacing main man Nick Talbot, a guitar and modest effects jiggery-pokery – seizes upon during borderline awkward between-tune conversation. Raising a glass with a toasting “Cheers” before apologising with a tangible hint of glee, that this proves the highlight of his set is possibly not the greatest endorsement. Stripped of his live band’s impressive bombast, with only occasional judiciously-employed loops to augment predominantly pure vocal and guitar tones, song husks like ‘Grand Union Canal’ drift past, leaving a handful of gig-goers quite literally snoozing.
Refreshments issues aside, the Reardon Smith Theatre proves a mighty mini-arena in the right hands, replete with cascading seating crescent and towering ceiling, more grandiose than the average educational establishment. It’s certainly worthy of múm’s melancholic majesty, but curse their sweet sort-of-Scandinavian asses if they haven’t gone and crashed back to Earth with new album Sing Along To Songs You Don't Know. Damn, they’re almost cheery.
Replacing elfin beauty with altogether more tangible marking sticks – a hint of Sufjan Stevens here (‘Prophecies & Reversed Memories’), a dash of campfire harmonics there (take your pick from multiple moments) – the mystery is popped a little. Concurrently, though, the increased humanity lends the seven-piece an entirely different affecting quality. Not least the disarming sentiments within ‘Blow Your Nose’, a sad defiance flickering from a country so recently economically ruined, or the charming ‘Hullaballabalú’, apparently about how birds share the same language across the globe.
Granted, occasionally the sweetness teeters toward overload, an oddly happy 20 pre-encore minutes almost unbearably outwardly nice. In the midst of that, ‘Sing Along’ bubbles under with the jolly lunacy of a night in with Fred and Rose West, the twee version. However beautiful you think we look, gladly informing us that “We want to lock you in our house / We want to eat you with a spoon / We want to make you sing along” is less múm, more Mum & Dad.
Among such delicacy, encore ‘Smell Memory’ – a brief reprise of the múm of old – is crushingly immense, its haunting intro overtaken by a crackling electronics crescendo that genuinely rumbles the venue’s foundations. It’s a reminder of the power they are capable of harnessing and an awesome one at that, albeit curiously out of place in the presence of the new múm. But it’s their latter-day language that seems best poised to enchant hearts the world over.
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