Shelves, Wavves and Múm at Zouk

Homegrown Talent and an Unusual Double Bill


by Teng Jing Xuan (photo credit: Dawn Chua)

Local band Shelves describes its sound as the aural consequence of an imaginary partnership between Teenage Fanclub, Pavement and Weezer. That’s not very far from the truth at all – the four-member outfit opened for Wavves on Saturday night with a solid ‘90s indie rock sound, feel-good rhythms and catchy melodies. Highlights of their 30-minute set included ‘Against A Wall’, a lament about a failed relationship which nicely sidestepped mawkishness with its simple lyrics and strong bass line.

Wavves, a surf-rock group from San Diego, California, took the stage next with a characteristic blast of near-deafening noise. Imagine the sunkissed, ‘wet’ guitar reverb of 1950s surf-rock pioneers buried under waves upon waves (pardon the irresistible pun) of dissonance, and you might come close to understanding the forcefulness of Wavves’ energetic presence on Saturday night. The setlist included songs from the band’s newest album, Afraid of Heights (2013), as well as older hits like ‘Idiot’ from King of the Beach (2010).

The audience started off awkwardly bopping to the music, but by the time frontman Nathan Williams had begun joking about smoke machines and farts midway through the set, people were yelling lyrics and literally jumping up and down.

Technical difficulties meant it was a good half-hour before second headlining act Múm came onstage. By then, the manic enthusiasm built up by Wavves had faded somewhat. This might have been a good thing, considering how dramatically different the Icelandic experimental dream-pop group was from Wavves.BBUy4pV2RtQFDd_11lHrlJS7frLNccuoea9aKWfJAI0

Múm achieves its distinctively ethereal sound through the use of unconventional instruments, which on Saturday night included a pail of water and set of hand bells. The group’s female vocalists displayed impressive range, moving from ghostly breathiness to near-belting in seconds.

If Wavves’ performance was the musical equivalent of cat aliens crashing a spaceship into a rainbow ocean (see the album art for King of the Beach), then Múm’s set was something else altogether: a walk through deep, dark, elf-populated woods, maybe. You could almost see the trees as band members swayed and whistled to ‘The Ballad of the Broken Birdie Records’ from 2010 album Yesterday was Dramatic, Today is Ok. Cellist and vocalist Gyda Valtysdottir’s trance-like dancing at the end of Múm’s set provided an appropriately surreal ending note for the evening.