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Marika Hackman - Craufurd Arms, Wolverton, 30/3/2015

  by Owen Peters

published: 18 / 4 / 2015

Marika Hackman - Craufurd Arms, Wolverton, 30/3/2015


Owen Peters finds no doubt of acclaimed young singer-songwriter Marika Hackman's talent but her lacking stage presence during her latest tour at a show at the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton

Marika Hackman hasn’t been on the music scene very long, but already she carries baggage, not of her making I should add. Be it her scholarship to attend Bedales School. Her friendship with Cara Delevinge. Modelling for Burberry. Supporting Laura Marling. Even her upbringing in Hampshire is skewed to be a problem in some quarters. It seems as though everyone has an opinion. Hackman’s debut single ‘You Come Down’ was released in 2012 on Transgressive, and produced by her ex school chum Johnny Flynn to generally positive reviews. During 2013 she released an EP of covers, and mini album ‘That Iron Taste’ which consisted of her own material, plus two more EPs ‘Sugar Blind’ and ‘Deaf Heat’. A stint touring with Marling and Alt J during 2013/2014 closed off the role of support act for the time being. Hackman’s debut album ‘We Slept at Last’ was released through Dirty Hit Records in February. As part of her extensive headlining UK tour, we are at the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton for the music, not the baggage. Hackman comes on stage to a “nice to see you here” round of applause. Looking a little surprised at her welcome, she says she feels a fraud for the applause just for coming on stage. “Maybe I should have worn a dress,” she teases. She looks comfortable enough in her jeans, jacket and shirt. “Anyway thank you Wolverton, not Milton Keynes, right?” Which converts into another set of applause. The opening number ‘Drown’ was released as a single from the debut album, which becomes a taster of Hackman’s lyrical tempo and content, which consists of acoustic guitar and bare minimum stage management. “Oh to drown in your mind/I’d choke on you if I could,” she delivers in not much more than a whisper. Switching to electric guitar, Hackman demonstrates her velvet tones with evangelical renditions of ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Deep Green’. Stabbing, cutting off noses, taste of iron from the blood are gently explored in ‘Cannibal’. She offers up holy ghosts, spiders webs, harlequins, and the lines “my body’s made of shell...fucking with my goddam brain”, all of which are delivered with a church choral delivery on ‘Deep Green’. But the natives are getting restless. Coughing is in the ascendency, mobile phones are being checked and conversation is breaking out. Half a dozen songs into the set is ‘Itchy Teeth’. In composition it’s a warm summer breeze. Hackman’s lyrics aren’t so much dark as jet black: “I am a broken ship, a sinking mast”. She conjures up the pain and scene with a wonderful construction of verse. Mission control we have a problem, which is this. Hackman is not communicating with the audience. One tune is rolling into another. There are heartfelt lyrics being expressed here, but not explained. The audience must be of a similar mind to me. We want to know what the songs represent. It isn’t happening. The audience chattering continues. “Don’t expect to be dancing and hollering tonight”, she tells the audience, as a diversion whilst tuning a wayward string. ‘Monday Afternoon’ is another deeply layered song. A lover goes to the woods awaiting her lover, who never arrives. Suicide seems the sensible option. It sits as an old traditional folk song, with a ditty of a tune which buzzes around inside your head. Suddenly, hooray, bingo, whoopee, Hackman tells the audience something personal, a story, history of the song and it’s on her new album. Halfway through the set she connects, talks at length with the crowd. ‘Claude’s Girl’ is a lullaby she wrote for herself with a heavy nod to Debussy’s ‘Girl with the Flaxen Hair’. The audience perks up, and mobiles are slipped into pockets and handbags. It makes all the difference believe me, and why wouldn’t it? This is the first time many will have seen Hackman perform, let alone speak. So why there is this lack of communication is bewildering. ‘Ophelia’, her cover of ‘81’ by Joanna Newson and ‘Cinnamon’ are simply sublime. There is little doubt Hackman has immense talent, especially in the songwriting department. The themes of forests, death, departed lovers, introspection are all covered with confidence and guile. The tone of her work is, however, one paced. In some cases songs simply ease into each other. Some of the songs were from past EPs which in itself isn’t a problem. It does become an issue when the songs titles aren’t given to the audience and neither are the source, EP or album. Audiences want performers to communicate with them. They want to understand origins of songs and about the individual. They want to be fans with knowledge. I asked some of the punters after the gig if they could tell me the title of Hackman’s new album. Not one person knew the title. Besides the music I came wanting to know more about Marika Hackman the person. Her music left me in no doubt of the talent on show here. Unfortunately I learned very little of Marika Hackman the singer-songwriter.

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Marika Hackman - Craufurd Arms, Wolverton, 30/3/2015

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