‘Demonstrating such free-spiritedness, MALMØ took the soothing honesty we’ve come to love to another level.’
Receiving an invite a few weeks back from Nick of Integrity Records to see MALMØ’s secret gig, I knew it was an opportunity too good to miss. So, heading to London earlier this month, I arrived at what was to be the most beautiful of afternoons. Bringing their week filled with interviews and live sessions on shows such as Sunny and Shay (BBC London) and Crossing the Tracks (Radio Woking) – as well as numerous radio plays, it made for the perfect conclusion.
Truth be told, when I initially featured MALMØ last year it never crossed my mind that I would ever get the chance to see them live. Let alone in the intimate house setting near Highbury and Islington. It seemed though, as everyone arrived that we were all there for that very reason. A chance to witness some very special musicality and after numerous handshakes and introductions, it felt like it would more than live up to expectation.
Chatting with singer-songwriter Maria before the performance, it quickly became clear that the touchingly honest musicality I had picked up from her music, really was a musical extension of her own personality. Immediately making everyone feel ridiculously comfortable among the effortlessly friendly ‘hygee’ style environment, she made it feel like we had all met before. A few may have – possibly – but in truth it felt like a lot more. So, with everyone sitting comfortably, and freshly brewed coffee in hand, we settled in further for what was to be a showcase set.
Opening in the most atmospheric of ways, the combination of delicate samples and kalimba melodies of ‘Dawn’ – written in the Himalayas – ensured everyone was lost in the sound from the second it began. It has to be said that this was also the case for Maria and Christian themselves as, working with an array of technology and exuding joy at every turn, they too were absorbed by the sound. Demonstrating such a level of free-spiritedness, it took the honesty we’ve come to love to another level and transported us elsewhere. Ironically, the success was such that we were spellbound to an extent that no-one wanted to break the silence by applauding. A magical start doesn’t really cover it.
Moving through the set, it was wonderful to see how Maria interacted with us as well as with Christian. Self-assured, yet calm and soothing it was as captivating as could be. Likewise, the stories behind the musicality, and where tracks had been written continued to transport us to those very places. Highlighting this beautifully, and sitting in between previously released tracks ‘We Come from the Stars’ and ‘You’, Maria treated us to her most recent single the Greenland centred ‘Frostbite.’
As you will know from my recent review of the track, I am somewhat of a fan to say the least. However, hearing a track that has so much meaning behind it, hearing the compositional intentions first hand and hearing Maria’s impassioned, message-driven lyricism live, gave it even more importance. Listen to the track, connect with it and times that connection by about ten and you’ll get somewhere near the experience we had.
Ensuring that they continued to deliver yet more magical musicality, following the performance of ‘You’ which was preceded by an endearing comment of ‘some of you may know it’ – we moved toward the more dramatic sound of ‘The Way.’ Yet again giving a version which had even greater connection than the recording I’d previously heard, I found myself being in complete awe.
Yes it may have been helped by literally being up on the balcony with them, but looking at the select few from above, I could tell everyone else felt the same. Offering up initially transportive, breathy vocals above the atmospheric samples and transforming into a powerful, free-from finale you would have been hard pushed to not be. However, taking us to a cathartic conclusion, MALMØ gave us all the soothing captivation we could wish for in ‘River of the Heart.’ Indeed the performance was over, but the afternoon most definitely wasn’t.
Coming down from the balcony to join us, the attention turned from the musicality to Maria and Christian themselves. For a lot of performers, what you see in a live context isn’t the ‘real’ person it’s their performance-persona. However, while they were clearly delighted, overwhelmed even by the atmosphere they had generated through their music, this didn’t change their own personalities. If anything, it actually enhanced them as you knew they were one of the same and chatting with us, the old-friends style approach returned.
Hearing Maria speak with individuals about how the MALMØ process works, it was clear that it is one that evolves throughout rather than being firmly set. While I knew some of this from their Behind the Music feature last year, the extent to which this is the case was highlighted perfectly when a sound was heard in the room and she half-jokingly commented: ‘Christian… can we use this sound?’ Evident from Christian’s reaction, this was far from the first time this had happened and with Maria stating ‘I’ll quite often hear a natural sound and get Christian to work it into a track’ it was unlikely to be the last.
Speaking more generally with Maria, I mentioned how incredibly live the performance seemed given the amount of sampling, processing and mixing that goes on. Asking if the live performance is the same each time, the response was one I should have predicted: ‘No, it’s completely free and depends on how we feel at the time.’
Building on this, I was keen to know how they ensure that it still works. ‘When you’re looping things differently each time, communication between us [me and Christian] is incredibly key.’ said Maria. Given that when they perform in full at events such as Arctic Sounds and SPOT Festival it involves additional musicians as well as dancers, I can only imagine how high the importance of this soars.
Chatting as comfortably as we all were, I’m sure many of us could have stayed with Maria and Christian for hours longer. However, with the afternoon coming to it’s appropriately natural end – resulting in me being second last to leave – one question remained. After such a busy week, what will you be doing tomorrow before you head back? I asked. The reply? ‘Well we have all our equipment set up, we’re here, so we may as well write some new material.’ Something tells me that the special musicality MALMØ have is about to get even more so.
All photos copyright of Listen to Discover. See more on: Gig Photography: February 2019