Brian Eno once made a case for turning the word pretentious into a compliment, arguing that artists need experimental leaps of faith into the highfalutin to achieve something new. Like many current Icelandic musicians, the two men and two women of the baroque-techno pop quartet múm make pretentious aspirations a raison d’être. Alongside other members of Reykjavík’s Kitchenmotors collective, múm has recently turned its ambient gaze toward creating original soundtracks for classic silent films. Last Thursday, in the midst of an inaugural U.S. tour promoting its sophomore collection of pop tunes, Finally We Are No One, múm took a side trip to the warehouse-y confines of the Brooklyn Lyceum, to play along with a screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 epic Battleship Potemkin.
It was an inspired pairing. Múm wears the notion of romantic IDM on its sleeve, mixing (among other things) a melodica, a harmonium, and two PowerBooks, piling sweet textures onto modernist crackles, like Belle and Sebastian at play in a Mac store. Eisenstein’s mythic account of a 1905 mutiny on a Russian destroyer is equally up-front—sweeping strokes molding a then-new medium. Divided into five emotionally focused chapters, the film works outside a continuous narrative, allowing the group to use its compositional ideas in short, connected stabs. Which múm did with aplomb, tying together a funereal cello-laptop dirge (the scene of Vakulinchuk’s death), a militaristic techno march (the confrontation on the Odessa steps), and a music box-like soliloquy (the infamous baby-carriage scene) into a graceful musical tale. And the closing scene’s coda, in which Potemkin races toward the Russian fleet, was an exploding variation on the Soviet anthem: digital feedback underneath cathedral organ chords, a battle-hymn for the humanist proletariat. Pretentious though it may have been, it was also grand spectacle. —Piotr Orlov
To celebrate Colombia’s 192nd birthday as a free nation, about 20,000 folks gathered in Madison Square Garden in search of peace for a land where civil war often obscures a rich culture. On July 20, “Pa’ Colombia con Amor: Un Canto por la Paz” opened with a full-house rendition of the national anthem, kicking off 15-minute sets by an impressive roster of stars.
First, salsa samurai Joe Arroyo stormed the stage with his Afro-Caribbean rhythms in standards like “Tania,” moving the flag-waving audience to their feet. Lisandro Meza belted a cumbia in which he offered his life for Colombia, as well as the drinking songs essential to any good party. And Los Diablitos del Vallenato slowed things down with “Los Caminos de la Vida,” a melancholy tune about life’s struggles set to an accordion’s beat.
Representing the new guard were rockeros Cabas, who teased the ladies with a little rump-shaking, and sensitive guitarist Juanes, who captivated with songs about loving the land you’re born in. He was followed by the evening’s highlight: The audience raised yellow, blue, and red squares of cardboard to create the largest-ever human flag (Guinness-verified), then flipped them to their white undersides, covering MSG with a blanket signifying peace.
The organizers had only booked the arena until midnight, but instead of giving people what they wanted (the renowned Fruko y Sus Tesos were rushed offstage after one song), they devoted precious time to ads for beer and long-distance service (?!). Luckily, beloved salseros Grupo Niche got the crowd moving again—they danced in the aisles to the color-coordinated orchestra’s horn-driven, call-and-response rhythms. The frenzied fútbol-match spirit and performers’ wails overshadowed the violence at home in Colombia—if only for a night. —Grace Bastidas
The Night I Felt the Love
CUNY SOC. 81200—Ethnographic Research, Prof. Duneier
Question: Are Eminem fans sexist and/or homophobic?
Method: Participant observation, Anger Management Tour, Meadowlands, July 22
Results: There were lots of little kids and TRL girls, but as Em predicted, most of the crowd looked just like him (sans peroxide). They were on their feet from the start, so we couldn’t tell from body language if they were responding to particular lyrics. Probably not, for two reasons: His weak delivery made him hard to follow, and his general lack of enthusiasm and stage presence flattened his genius schizoid personae into one long bummer. Given this anti-charisma (cf. Pavement, 1999), the only real responses he got were of recognition. Compare opener Ludacris, who said bitch a lot but also wants to “lick lick lick lick you from your head to your toes,” included a co-equal woman MC in his set, and ran around like a puppy in a tennis ball factory.
In interviews, fans were more certain of Em’s talent than his message. “Incredibly phat—put that in your paper!” was all we could get from a pituitary case in a Jordan Wizards jersey, who kept calling the security guard a “fat faggot.” Others were more nuanced. “His verse and meter are unparalleled,” said Dave from Brooklyn. But what about the way he talks about gays and women? “He’s just saying that. Like if you’re driving and a Japanese person cuts you off, you might yell, ‘You fucking gook!’ But you don’t hate Japanese people. Can I get your number?” “He makes it a joke,” said Laurie, the oldest of three cousins from Burlington, New Jersey, each sporting an orange headband and homemade, silver-glitter Eminem T-shirt. “He’s not an outright sexist, that’s just how he is to the world in general.” “He’s been fucked by everyone so he’s taking it out on everyone,” offered Chris from Edison. “He uses the word faggot like fucker,” added his friend Jill. “I call him [points to Chris] a faggot all the time and I know he’s not gay.” Does Em hate women? “He’s so hot, he can talk to me however he wants.”
Conclusion: Eminem fans are complicated. —Josh Goldfein