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Marika Hackman’s Soup Kitchen show last week was so delightfully different to anything she’s offered before and is well worth catching before she tries something new again.

Supporting Ethan Johns, Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and even The 1975 last year, Hackman was captivating on stage with just her guitar.  The set-up was simple and quiet, and really quite potent.  It’s a formula that’s easy to repeat and rely on, which makes her 2013 album That Iron Taste and this year’s Sugarblind EP all the more interesting and esteemed for their experimental production and insistently shady lyrics.

They’re now being followed with Hackman’s largest UK headline tour to date, enlarging and exploring her own music as she goes.  Joined on stage by a drummer and a bassist also operating a synthesiser, songs transform from eerily delicate to foreboding…  perhaps even overbearing.  The drums are forceful; there’s swirling lights and digital sounds seeping in from unknown sources.  Hackman has taken her unnerving, dark lyrics and created a disquieting live show to match.

Though I did relish the two-song acoustic interlude, only a glimpse was needed: the uncanny contrast to the rest of the show made it seem a brief spectre.  Allusions to ghosts are not to suggest that Hackman’s previous work is dead, rather that the harmonies in the music, the distant stare on stage and songs such as ‘I’ll Borrow Time’, ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Here I Lie’ conjure a sense of those beyond and elsewhere somehow inhabiting the show.

The vocals grow to fill the entire basement of Soup Kitchen very occasionally, though for the most part they remain subdued and maybe that’s why the show works so well.  It’s an entirely different take on girl-with-guitar-folk, and I leave the show feeling like I’ve heard something entirely unexpected, and something as original as Hackman’s songwriting deserves.

 

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