Monday, November 12, 2007

Interlude: In Church

The Wordless Music Series has a number of events that seek to unite fans of indie rock and electronic music and those with more classical leanings. Friday night's event took place at The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, and featured a unique blend of instruments, with everything from cello to computers to choirs. Although the venue's a bit more uptown than I'm used to going, and it was raining as usual, the trip was definitely worthwhile. It's a bit strange sitting at a show to begin with, and being in pews was really odd, but it would have been difficult to stand throughout the entire performance. That's not an insult to the artists, but simply that the music they played was far mellower and quieter than the usual fare, just one of the qualities that made the night special.


Montreal trio Torngat were entirely instrumental, its members deftly switching from brass to percussion throughout the set. With the varied instrumentation, their sound overlapped categories, as a sort of abstract blend of jazz, indie pop and electronica. With a name inspired by a wild mountain range in Quebec, Torngat was scaled one major peak in the middle of their performance, the drumming becoming surprisingly loud. Towards the end of it, two members marched down the aisles, blowing their horns like distressed whales. It was a somewhat puzzling move, but a fitting end for a band that embraces the unexpected.

MySpace: Torngat
Official Site: Torngat

Jihyun Kim

We were told afterwards that celloist Jihyun Kim had been in the hospital earlier, but had insisted to play at the show nonetheless. If she was feeling any discomfort, she didn't show it, as she played marvelously through a rendition of material by Bach and György Ligeti. There isn't much that's comparable to classical music in what I usually hear; at most, orchestration is an ornament rather than the driving force behind a song. Unfortunately, my ignorance was an obstacle to completely appreciating her performance, and there were moments when I had recollections of recitals from years past. Still, it's hard not to appreciate the sublime sound of a string instrument, but only in measured doses.

Video: Jihyun Kim - Cello Solo


With headliners Múm looming, I grabbed a spot on the floor in front of the stage. I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan, having only really listened to significant quantities of their first album, Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is Okay. But with both Valtýsdóttir sisters departing since the group's inception, it was a very different sort of Múm that took the stage. Much of the glitchy computerization that defined their earlier work was relegated to a supporting role. Instead of the Valtýsdóttirs' whispered vocals, the addition of two new female singers created a pseudo-chorus that fit well in the religious space. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of oomph in their sound. Too often, the earlier stuff becomes background music, and while the set was mostly gentle, there were gratifying amounts of head-nodding courtesy of the punchy basslines and drumming. Overall, this incarnation of the group seems far more extroverted, which is only a good thing in a live setting.

Towards the end of the set, the band covered a gospel song by Washington Phillips, which is to say, a song with actual words. Although the band did an okay job in the studio with Slowdive's "Machine Gun," (included below) it would have been almost unthinkable to hear the band attempt more than an approximation without their current lineup. But with the additional members, it was a rousing tribute that reiterated the fact that music conquers all barriers, whether geographic or stylistic. Torngat would join in on the last song of the main set, and the band would return for a quiet closing track in the encore, a tranquil outro for an excellent night.

Here's a repost of their show at Barcelona, Spain's BAM music festival on September 21st, 2002, and a couple other songs of note. Enjoy!

Update: Check out a recording of Múm's two shows over the weekend at nyctaper.

1. The Land Between Solar Systems
2. Green Grass of Tunnel
3. K/Half Noise
4. Smell Memory / I Can't Feel My Hand Any More, It's Alright, Sleep Still
5. Please Sing My Spring Reverb
6. Now There's That Fear Again
7. Awake On A Train

MP3: Múm - Machine Gun (Slowdive Cover)
MP3: Múm - Dancing Behind My Eyelids
MySpace: Múm
Official Site:

1 comment:

Ed said...

This is a seriously cool blog, the first time I've been here, but I'll be back!

Ed, 17 Seconds

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