Icelandic band, Of Monsters & Men have been performing their highly recognizable folk music since 2011. After their 2015 release, Beneath The Skin, we have seen them move into more ambient shoe gaze realm. With the help of NSW based, Gordi, TWL had the opportunity to see how this translated live at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre.
Performing at the Palais will usually provide any performance with an extra flair of grandeur. Its history is rich and vivid that can be felt the moment you walk into the venue. As we were all seated by the helpful staff it was easy to see that OM&M had a diverse, inter-generation following.
As Gordi and her two companions took to the stage, their presences on the large Palais theatre was understated. As a three piece band surrounded by the equipment from the 8 members strong headline act, it created an almost amateur environment. Only to be exacerbated by the awkward position of the trumpet and saxophonist who joined halfway through the set. That being said, as they performed, drenched in orange, blue and purple lights, their haunting, music was particularly well received. Gordi provided the night with a neat and polished set, unfortunately this removed a raw quality that is essential for her style of music, one that could be compared to Daughter or Cat Power. Occasionally with the help of their synth player, Gordi’s music would try to expand beyond its limitations. Heading into an almost cosmic realm but this was short lived and, at times, even countered by the occasional misplaced drone inserted by the aforementioned synth player, removing the listener from the performance.
While Gordi’s smoke and honey vocals are beautiful to listen to, she failed to push herself into creating a diversity in her vocal melodies that blurred her set list into a single monotonous sound. Gordi then took on Courtney Barnett with a cover of ‘Avant Gardner’. Once again Gordi’s vocals and composition was without fault but her smooth, slow and somber tone removed the fun, ironic self-deprecation that has made Barnette iconic. Over all Gordi is a skilled and pleasant artist that is providing the same act in every song. With a little push she has everything she needs to push her music into realms that are more than just ‘nice’.
The silhouettes of OM&M, shrouded in smoke, took to their positions as the swell of ambient music built upon itself, creating tension and anticipation before brass, vocals, strings and percussions all took their turns to join in and create a cacophony of rambunctious sound. This high, ecstatic energy was rather short-lived. OM&M were a tight-knit production, impressive considering the multitude of elements and the constant swapping of instruments between band members. While their performance had an emotional rawness to it that Gordi lacked, over all OM&M fell victim of the same monotony of sound. Their impressive light show and occasional gentle songs like ‘Orchid’ did little to create elements of tenderness and diversity but due to their writing style of simple components layered over each other to create the illusion of complexity, there were few moments of exceptionalism that stood out.
Front woman and man, Nanna Brandis Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, respectively, took time to engage with their crowed. Inciting ‘whooping’ competitions and calling them to stand from their seats and bop to their successful singles, ‘Dirty Talks’ and ‘Little Paws’ both of which were performed with ease. The fans responded in earnest and continued to stand for the majority of the performance.
A real stand out was Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir, who’s blues and jazz inspired trumpet solo was a step outside of the gig’s style, reinvigorating the crowd and set itself. Perhaps the biggest disappoint was Brynjar Leifsson on lead guitar providing solos that were easy to listen to but uninspired.
At the end of the day, OM&M are excellent at what they do, it just so happens that they do one thing. They can’t be labelled bad artists but neither are they exceptional. OM&M are light-hearted indi-folk fun to relax to with the occasional energetic boost or mellow tender moments performed with professionalism and sincerity.