Miike Snow at the 9:30 Club

Swedish dance pop group Miike Snow perform at DC's 9:30 Club.

WASHINGTON, November, 15, 2012 —Scandinavians just appear to have a different worldview from everyone else. That seems to extend through everything, and it’s even more evident when it comes to pop music. It’s especially true for bands and singers from Sweden. They’ve always had easier time getting a foothold in the American and British music scenes than most other cultures worldwide.  Essentially this is where Miike Snow’s recent show at the 9:30 Club comes in.

Miike Snow — pronounced in a number of different ways from “Mike” to “Meekay” much like the extreme Japanese film director – are notionally a group from Stockholm, Sweden made up of producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg along with American songwriter Andrew Wyatt. Even before they officially formed Miike Snow, Karlsson and Winnberg had worked under the name Blodoshy & Avant, collaborating with the likes of pop luminaries such as Britney Spears, Madonna, and Kylie Minogue, while Wyatt performed in the band The A.M.  This style mesh contributed to the style of Miike Snow, which resulted in their current live show.

It’s accurate to call Miike Snow a band, but it would more on point to call them a collective. On their two full-length albums, none of the three band members is distinctly credited, being referred to instead simply by the stage name Miike Snow. Their live show takes on that appeal just as much, with the fluttering lights in the background making it difficult to differentiate among the individual members.

In fact, the only clear thing about their set is that everyone knows that Andrew Wyatt is the vocalist. But even he comes across as no more than a silhouette with the chaos of a light show throbbing behind him. This often results in the misconception that Miike Snow is a singular entity. That’s not true, but this band certainly makes it known they want to be seen as a single entity rather than as component parts.

The interesting thing about Miike Snow’s live show is how it bridges the gap between the band’s recorded material and the club/dance pop heavy sound Karlsson and Winnberg had become known for before they joined up with Wyatt. The sound the new ensemble pushes across on their two albums is straight indie pop with light hints here and there of electro pop. Their current mix is generally recognized as a departure from the past but only because people expected them to be closer to the sound Karlsson and Winnberg produced as Bloodshy & Avant and because two thirds of their band is Swedish.

This is where Miike Snow takes another swift turn during their live set. Although they’re recognized for their recent indie-pop leanings, they still have a strong dance/electro pop vibe in their recent history. That’s brought out during their performance more than any of their studio recordings would suggest. 

Their songs are still recognizable for what they are, but instead, there’s also an underlying sense of the thump that’s often associated with the Euro dance club scene. The lighthearted feel of their work is present and vibrant, but it’s balanced by giving this sound a little more aggression and bite.  Miike Snow builds off this dynamic tension that draws from their past and present to create a lively and eminently danceable atmosphere.

Creating this type of sensation seems to be the primary goal of Miike Snow. Their songs combined with the window dressing provided by their stage presence generates a space where the audience can forget themselves and just let loose for an hour or so. It’s the same kind of feeling one gets from club, only there’s a good bit more high minded musicality here. It’s Miike Snow’s unique high concept and it was amply on display during their show at the 9:30 Club.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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