A seasonal offering from singer/guitarist Marika Hackman. After a short introduction it is ‘In The Bleak Mid-Winter’, one of the most haunting and atmospheric carols combining the words of Christina Rossetti with the memorable simplicity of the tune by Holst. The vocal gets some striking treatments but resolves into the pure voice in the end.
‘Driving Under Stars’ is my favourite track, motoring along nicely with some skittish guitar punctuation and multi-tracked and echoing voice. ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ is a favourite of the King’s College choir on Christmas Eve so it is as good a start to Christmas proper as any, this version sounding like the accompaniment to a long and hopeful pilgrimage.
The final two tracks are both a bit disquieting; ‘Paper Crown’ is a foreboding and emotional tale demanding repeated listens, then secular anthem ‘Winter Wonderland’ is given such an original, multi-layered and dark treatment I am left wondering what it is all about…
No clichéd ‘Merry Christmas’ here, but plenty to enjoy.
With just a range of guitars and her haunting voice, Marika Hackman held the packed Portland audience in rapt attention. It was a master class in the power of well-crafted songs, intricate yet subtle playing and an engaging personality. She was clearly pleased to be on stage and appreciative of the audience reaction, there was a genuine short smile at the end of each song.
She has roots in folk, but the dream-like textures and sinister overtones of some of her lyrics have a style all their own. She manages to faithfully recreate the echoes and delays of the vocals of her current album, ‘We Slept At Last’ and second song in we were treated to one of the standout tracks ‘Drown’. ‘Monday Afternoon’ is a mellow tale of pastoral delights with unexpected death thrown in. There are also similar ominous feelings in new single ‘Ophelia’.
I have an obsessive fondness for songs of all genres in waltz time and ‘Claudes’s Girl’, a lullaby tribute to Claude Debussy did not disappoint. There was a cover version of ’81’ by avant-garde folk harpist Joanna Newsom then the thoughtful soundscape of final song ‘Cinnamon’ left us a bit breathless. I’m not sure if an encore was usual or expected but she came back and played folky and jokey ‘Bath Is Black’ to send us off into the night…