It would be easy (and somewhat insulting) to dismiss Karen Marie Ørsted as another dusty relic of the style of shiny Scandinavian pop that has become highly fashionable in recent years. At first glance, her clattering arsenal of skittering beats and dreamy vocals do not resemble a particularly groundbreaking formula, but it is a ferociously volatile live show, and its resulting reputation, that has persuaded many to spend a blustery Tuesday night lingering within the belly of bustling Shoreditch, the intimate surroundings of XOYO’s basement dwellings keeping us suitably warm.
Of course, inevitably, they, and I, have made a wise choice. It becomes immediately apparent, perhaps even by the close of her opening track, a crunching rendition of unheard number ‘The Sea’, that the low ceilings and restrictive space provide a thriving habitat for Ørsted and her backing band (a flailing drummer, DJ and chirpy guitarist) to immerse themselves amongst the bobbing heads and writhing bodies of enthusiastic onlookers. Indeed, as the hypnotic, glassy riff of ‘Maiden’ slinks into earshot, MØ has already leapt hungrily into the arms of the crowd, twirling her trademark ponytail with venomous tenacity.
Having strutted over a recent Kopparberg advert, ‘Waste Of Time’ provokes a huge reaction, particularly from Ørsted herself, who thrashes like a frenzied beast, seemingly unfazed by the ear-splitting wall of noise that stomps and postures around her. As amps wheeze and pillars shudder, it’s as if MØ is ushering in the end of the world – and we appear more than happy to follow her lead. Eyeing a typically unruly conclusion, Ørsted rips the boisterous swagger of ‘Pilgrim’ in two, before departing under a shower of stuttering cymbals and the rowdy call-and-response yelp of ‘Glass’:
Despite her affinity for explosive crescendos and anthemic choruses, Ørsted is noticeably compelling when the minefield of complex beats is stripped back a little. ‘Never Wanna Know’, a shimmering high point of her Bikini Daze EP, is a fragile, stinging ode in the direction of an ex-lover, which is surely destined for adoption as a mass singalong at some point, while ‘Freedom’ is another delightful slab of melancholia.
Whilst memories of Robyn’s chart assault still gently linger, Scandinavian pop has seemingly been discarded (let’s blame Icona Pop for that one, shall we?) by various blogs, hidden away from prying ears, sealed in a remote vault littering cyberspace somewhere. MØ is a delightfully raucous reminder that we shouldn’t swallow the key just yet.