To mark their third birthday, Ja Ja Ja, purveyors of the finest music from Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark brought one of this years most tipped acts from Copenhagen to their adopted home, The Lexington.
Karen Marie Ørsted, better known as MØ was hailed as “the new Grimes“ by The Guardian, Grimes having previously been fated as “the new Bjork”, who in turn was “the new Kate Bush”. If you follow the hype trail back far enough there was probably a virtuoso Lute player in a 17th century English hamlet heralded as “the new Tobias the troubadour”.
MØ has a relaxed but focused look about her as she stands at the centre of a very stark stage, DJ on one side, Guitarist the other, a solitary burst of colour offered by her bumblebee striped top and blonde locks. There’s a slight pause before the surprisingly full sounding music kicks in, including a whole lot of MØ’s vocals…a thought briefly crosses my mind. Could someone raved about as much for her voice as her songs be about to mime? The answer thankfully is, if you make music consisting of artfully slicing up vocal samples and multi layered harmonies, then unless you were fortunate enough to be born with four larynxes, you’re gonna need a little backing.
Ørsted treats the beat like a sprinter does a gun and immediately throws her body and long legs into a dance thats half B-Boy and half Babushka era Kate Bush. If you’ve ever seen a breakdancer building momentum before launching into a windmill, thats what it reminds me of, the only shame being she didn’t end the show with a headspin.
The staccato rhythmed “Pilgrim” (video below) is MØ’s best known tune to date and it doesn’t disappoint, getting the crowd holla holla hollaring with its slow hand claps and those infectious bursts of filtered horns. Floating above the slick production is a fine voice, Ørsted occasionally stands still long enough to deliver a nuanced vocal, at times soft and gentle but properly letting rip at others.
The hype around MØ has built off the back of just two tracks, the second of which “Maiden” offers a chance for her guitarist (pic below) to step out of the shadows. Not since Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” has a pop guitar line been as indebted to the West African sounds of Ju-Ju and Highlife, although in place of the Vamps references to 17th Century architecture and punctuation, MØ aims firmly for the dancefloor with crunching beats and a seductively intoned declaration that “my desire is ravaging me“.
Tracks like Longing Bird and Woman of Babylon were available as demo’s earlier in the year but have since disappeared from Soundcloud presumably to build up demand for that first long player. Broken hearted ballad “No More Seconds” showed off MØ’s vocal prowess, as well as proving she can do almost Dianne Warren style epic love songs, albeit a left-field Warren with production by Timbaland.
Although it’s a short-ish set, there’s an assured confidence to her performance that will see her playing much bigger venues than the Lexington and plenty of evidence in the songs to predict a MØ album could be a highlight of 2013.
Ørsted pops up as the female chorus/hook singing foil for Danish/Ugandan rapper and Megan Fox fan, Peaceful James on his old school mixtape (free download below). “Hula Hey” a 2009 collaboration with producer Nabo is also available on Soundcloud.
The evenings opening band illustrated the fact that if you remove the spaces between words, the mind doesn’t always bother to separate them again. In a reverse of the comical oversight that led Susan Boyles PR team to go with the twitter hash tag #susanalbumparty, I initially read Stockholm band, Highasakite as “difficult Norwegian word, move away, dont attempt to pronounce“.
That confusion aside, HighAsAKite were as Mister Oh observed on Twitter, worth the entry fee alone. It’s unusual for a venue to be packed for the first band but The Lexington crowd were enchanted.
In contrast to MØ, the stage was bathed in blue light, feathers hung from string weaving its way between each band member and the hooded lead singer up front with a fetching indian style sparkly red line daubed across her eyes. The keyboard player went for black striped eyes while the boys – not to be out done – performed stripped to the waist with black markings on their chest.
— Mister Oh (@IamMisterOh) November 29, 2012
On the surface it’s very proficient Indie pop music, with inspiration from acts like Lykke Li, but a blend of quirky instrumentation and Ingrid Helene’s gorgeous voice raises it above that slightly dismissive categorisation. Hearing her crystal clear vocal ringing out “she doesn’t walk with high heels on” on “The Heron” (above) with a choral backing sends shivers down the spine live, even if the song doesn’t quite deliver on its epic first half.
Ever present in front of Helene is her Zither, a stringed board slightly resembling a slide guitar and apparently famously featured (thank you Wikipedia) in the opening titles of Orson Wells The Third Man. It certainly doesn’t sound like that in this setting, but adds a lovely twist, especially when coupled with the multi-instrumentalist on her right who plays guitar, tambourine, cowbell, as well as feeding brass through an assortment of effects pedals.
Their debut album will see a worldwide release in early 2013, and they’re also off to SXSW to charm the socks off the assorted music industry types and Texans.
“Indian Summer” is probably their most instant pop anthem, although I can’t always be trusted to fairly judge tracks featuring Cowbells (I have a particular weakness for them, along with Syndrums, brass sections and Harps). For a band with just one album to their name the number of standout tracks like “My Soldier” is impressive. It also has a Kubrick-esque slightly creepy video shot in mansions somewhere in South East Norway (see below). “Son Of A Bitch“ finds Helene asking that you “Hold my hair while I vomit” and who could refuse an offer when sung so sweetly?
As befits a birthday celebration for a Nordic music website and monthly shindig, there was – if you’ll forgive the crude national stereotypes – an almost comical number of very attractive blond ladies in the crowd, the dj booth and on stage. There was also a bounty of I’m sure equally beautiful, bearded or stubbly blokes standing around intently prodding twitter updates into their mobiles, although London is in the grip of a hairy chin epidemic right now so this is no indication of nationality.
In front of me, a gentleman who I’ll call “Stubbly man No.3” remained steadfastly fixed on the glow of his phone – other than when briefly taking a picture of the band to tweet – throughout the entire performance of Sin Cos Tan, an electronic pop duo of producer/kindred bearded man Jori Hulkkonen & vocalist Juho Paalosmaa.
Twitter was updated, texts were sent and the description “a mixture of JD (Joy Division), another two initial band, and KW (Kraftwerk)” typed into his Apple notes. Personally I was leaning towards The Pet Shop Boys teaming up with Midge Ure while my friend who’d come along heard traces of New Order and a hint of Robert Smith. He also became strangely fixated on the singer’s apparent “constant” fiddling with his collar.
Discover which lazy pigeon holing you agree with the most by listening to the two tunes below.
SIN COS TAN – Facebook