Thursday 6th November
Arts Club, Liverpool
Marika Hackman’s music sounds as though it should be permanently echoing around a spruce forest. Her icy siren’s song is perfect for the windy night as I find myself watching her. As Hackman takes to the stage she is quiet and unassuming, which perfectly matches her pared back sound. The quiet strength that is present in all of her songs is clear to see on the stage in front of me. The overall effect is bewitching.
Hackman has been compared to both Laura Marling and Beth Orton, but when she performs it is Kurt Cobain that I see her channelling. With her curtain of tangled blonde hair, slumped posture and poetic lyrics it’s as though she is his female counterpart. Pained, dark, yet surprisingly light between songs Hackman’s love of Cobain shines through her set. Lines such as “I know that I’m unwell/my body’s made of shell/ and I know that you can tell” amplify Hackman’s hurt lyricism. It is music to heal yourself to.
Unearthed from a dark recess in her head comes Ophelia. Hackman and bassist Paul open Ophelia with a monk-like chant that convinced me for a second that I was witnessing the start of a Pagan ritual. Her drawn out howl in the middle of the song is cathartic. It makes the collective hairs of the audience stand on end. The doomed fate of Ophelia is conveyed lovingly in Hackman’s still performance. It’s as though she is holding a vigil for a kindred spirit.
Hackman’s songs both surprise and haunt in equal measure. The opening lines of Cannibal are gory and unexpected; “Have you seen my nose?/I cut it off last night/Well let’s just hope it grows/I’d hate to look a fright.” The lines wouldn’t look out of place in an Angela Carter short story. Her nonchalant performance lulls you into a false sense of security. Hackman’s Cannibal is in fact a cursed lullaby. It follows the trend of damned characters that are weaved throughout her songs.
Hackman’s performance is serious, measured and practised. Whilst she jokes with her audience between songs, even telling a story of a fly flying her up nose in an intimate church gig, at her core she is fervently earnest. Some lightness comes, however, in Bath is Black.
Here we see Hackman team her deceptively dark lyrics with an all the more upbeat rhythm. Considering Hackman was without a drummer, this song still stood its own. Indeed the lack of drums gave her songs a different form. With just guitar and bass you see the bones of Hackman’s songs. You see their inner workings. Whilst they might not have been as fleshy as they would been with drums they were still an impressive body of work.
Marika Hackman is the perfect soundtrack to your now frosty mornings. You’ll be able to buy her new album We Slept At Last in February 2015. If this live performance was anything to go off it’s well worth the purchase. Put it on at 7am and wrap your hands around a warm cup of coffee. She’s the gentle, dark start to your day that you’ve been looking for.
Words by Ruth Hartnoll