Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Marika Hackman, Night & Day Cafe Manchester, 4th April 2015 8/10

At the side of Wolf Alice, I was expecting a more sedate occasion for this folk gig, especially after I discovered that both acts were performing solo. Unexpectedly though, the evening opened dramatically with a person collapsing in the street outside the venue, and drew to a close with another audience member on the front row fainting during Let Me In. This reflected the heat in a tiny venue packed with over 200 people, not a rock and roll over-exuberance. It was gratifying to see such a size of crowd, given that only last year Night and Day Cafe was threatened with closure. From the front, the atmosphere was hushed, any chatter being silenced by the intensity of Marika Hackman's musicianship.

Opener Sophie Jamieson (pictured below) is clearly influenced by Daughter, and I was intrigued to imagine how her sound would be enriched by a full band: solo she was most touching. Sophie shares common ground with Marika in her introverted performing style and gravitas of presentation. Yet, musically the main act is even more indebted to Laura Marling, whom she's supported on a European tour. Marika's edges further to the fringes of nu folk though, creating a notably darker atmosphere. We were a long way from the communal party feel of the recently disbanded Noah and the Whale's 2011 gigs. This evening had a serious, even gloomy vibe, songs such as Monday Afternoon contributing gory lyrics. Laura Marling's subject matter, by contrast, is more genteel, though they share a privileged background.

The tempo was almost uniformly leisurely, even languorous, but what was lost in variety was gained in drama. Marika has the ability not only to silence the room, but to draw you in seductively to her world, to the exclusion of all else. This is not achieved by clever stagecraft: she barely moved from her microphone, and nobody was dancing. Instead the power came from the tangible, palpable sense of unease in the music, reflecting the fact that her début album was written at a time when she was suffering from anxiety attacks, and insomnia. Her vocal delivery, too is distinctive: she sings in a deadpan manner, but with a husky and delicate timbre.

The set felt remarkable coherent, or uniform, depending on your perspective; though a highlight for me was the Joanna Newsome cover 81 from her Sugar Blind EP. Marika is testament to the very English power of emotional restraint, and to beauty. She's explained that the influence of the classical music she studied at A Level:  'I love choral music particularly... that sort of darkness to it and the suspensions and the clashing chords which are so incredible'. Perhaps this helps to breath a sense of nostagia into her album, the same yearning quality I appreciate in Elgar's music. We Slept At Last incorporates electronic sounds, signalling its expansion beyond traditional folk boundaries. Marika might have needed this assistance to recreate the atmosphere in a larger venue, but on this occasion in Manchester, she was able to create magic of an exquisitely delicate nature without the need for a band or visual aids. I'm excited to follow this 22 year old's development.

  • Retina Television
  • Drown
  • Cannibal
  • Deep Green
  • Next Year
  • Itchy Teeth
  • Monday Afternoon
  • Animal Fear
  • Claude's Girl
  • Ophelia
  • You Come Down
  • Plans
  • 81
  • Before I Sleep
  • Let Me In
  • Skin
  • Cinnamon

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