|We Slept at Last|
Marika Hackman — We Slept at Last∏• “Jediný způsob, jak úspěšně bojuji proti klišé, je být neustále v pohybu a rozšiřovat svůj zvuk.” Superbly understated and atmospheric. Physical editions of We Slept At Last will be released with an art booklet containing a series of poetic and powerful images by Californian–born photographer Glen Erler, inspired by the dark narrative of the album. The full collection of photos will be exhibited in Camden’s Cob Gallery on 18th February, when there will also be a full band performance of the album.
∏• Marika Hackman: ‘I’m free to do whatever the hell I want’
The rising star refuses to be another kooky girl with a guitar. Here she talks about school with Cara Delevingne, writing twisted songs and nights out with her mentor Laura Marling.
Location: Bedales, Hampshire ~ Devon, London, UK
Album release: 16 February 2015
Record Label: Dirty Hit
01 Drown 3:52
02 Before I Sleep 3:52
03 Ophelia 3:33
04 Open Wide 3:21
05 Skin 3:18
06 Claude's Girl 2:38
07 Animal Fear 3:25
08 In Words 3:50
09 Monday Afternoon 3:38
10 Undone, Undress 3:26
11 Next Year 2:38
12 Let Me In 3:44
℗ 2015 Dirty Hit
Dave Simpson | Thursday 12 February 2015 21.31 GMT | Score: ****
∏• Although it could be loosely dubbed electro folk, the unsettling quality of Hackman’s music makes it different.
∏• As a former Bedales pupil, Burberry model & friend of Laura Marling and supermodel Cara Delevingne, 22–year–old Marika Hackman’s background may prove both a help and a hindrance, but her debut begs to be judged on its own terms. Although it could be loosely dubbed electro folk, her music’s unsettling quality and old–as–the–hills delivery makes her different. Full of shadows and animalistic imagery, her songs are like journeys through haunted forests or the darker crevices of her mind. As she puts it in the particularly eerie Claude’s Girl: “Turn off my mind. I beg you. It’s buzzing like the devil’s bones.” Hackman’s ghostly whisper is mostly set against her plucked acoustic guitar and depth charge–like sounds or distant cries, although Animal Fear is almost calypso and on the almost post–punk Open Wide she sounds like a spook fronting 17 Seconds–era Cure. Monday Afternoon seems to be a bewitched, folksy tale of lovers’ rotting corpses, while the Wicker Man–like Skin and Undone, Undress are superbly claustrophobic. A subtle, understated debut that takes its time, but lands its blows.
By Helen Clarke | posted on 10 Feb 2015 | Score: ****
∏• We’ve had our eye on Marika Hackman for some time now. Since 2012, to be precise, when we saw her play a spine tingling show in Dalston’s teeny tiny Servant Jazz Quarters, at the launch party for her debut single, You Come Down. Since then we — along with everyone else she’s wooed along the way — have been keenly awaiting her debut long player.
∏• A mini album, That Iron Taste, was released a couple of years ago, and it was really quite special. Warped, hushed vocals that recalled Nico, it left us hoping for a longer follow up, but she was in no rush. As she told us in an interview in December 2013: “Honestly, I haven’t been ready. I’ve only been doing this for a couple of years and I need to explore my sound, need to go out and play spongs over and over to empty rooms, and tour with artists I love and work with different producers, otherwise I think my debut record would sound fairly immature and confused, even.” These words were obviously not flippant, plucked out of the air to respond to a frequently asked question, because finally released 14 months later, We Slept At Last feels like a confident, complete work, that’s definitely very her.
∏• Hackman has spoken out against the early pigeon–holing of her as a ‘kooky folk girl’ — eschewing what could have been a much easier start to her career (Hackman briefly modelled for Burberry and counts Cara Delevinge and Laura Marling as pals) and with her debut, Hackman has established herself as a serious artist; this isn’t easily digestible, fashionable folk — it’s start to finsh dark, twisted fairytales that would make Mumford And Sons cower. It has a gorgeous pace that’s absorbing; gentle but sort of magical, like a wander through a dewy forest. But it’s not all spooked accoustics; there are layers of electronic wizardary and crashing cymbals over the top of her light fingered breeze.
∏• While earlier tracks like Bath Is Black, Retina Television and You Come Down were chorus heavy, the 12 new tracks (none of the 13 songs from her EPs have made the cut) that make up the album are perhaps less immediate but ultimately more rewarding. It’s an intriguing collection that gives you something new with each listen.
∏• Take Drown — it’s completely eerie, robotic, with carefully placed electronics. “I’d choke on you if I could…maybe I will” she muses, while Monday Afternoon — a reworked and renamed version of Here I Lie — is perhaps her greatest ambassador. Beautifully eccentric both in lyrics and in its rolling, electro–acoustic composition, it tells the story of a doomed couple: “I have no head, The forest floor is my bed, The leaves I use as a blanket, For my bones are as cold as lead…Lay on your hot bed, Breathe it in, Sickly sweet of my rotting skin…” Claude’s Girl is equally discomforting, but Animal Fear incorporates an almost surf–pop sound. It’s perhaps the record’s most accessible and tuneful track, despite being about resiting becoming a warewolf.
∏• This dark narrative oozes into the record’s artwork too; the physical releases come with a 24–page booklet of images by photographer Glen Erier. Combined, it’s powerfulstuff, especially for someone who has no interest in the usual aesethetics of pop. With such eerie stories as her disposle, it’s surprising to see them played by a scruffy 22–year–old, usually in a checked shirt and jeans; it’d be easy to dress up like Patrick Wolf or Bat For Lashes and give people what they probably expect, but as she told us: “When people come to my shows they will see me in the clothes that I have been wearing all day, with no make up on, standing there playing songs that I have written sitting on my bed at home. I’ve spent hours crafting and perfecting these songs so why would I want to distract from them? That’s like an artist displaying a painting on a wall which has been smothered in bright pink and orange wallpaper; give me a grey wall any day.”
∏• Like Hackman herself, this first outing is subtle, but somehow it packs in drama and poetry in a way that’s tender yet fascinating. It’s been well worth the wait.
Review by Sean O'Toole / February 2nd, 2015 / Score: 3/5
∏• Following a flurry of E.P. releases and one mini album over a two year period — as well as having once been drafted as MVP of sorts for supermodel friend Cara Delevigne’s musical aspirations — Marika Hackman’s debut album is a consistently, if not relentlessly, sombre record. Wistful and brooding, the tone is solidly set with the single ‘Drown’ and the record subsequently opts to divert any deviation from this plotted course. Layered, accented vocals and bare instrumentation support the singer’s composition style without coming close to the realms of grating or over reliance. For every shimmering individual moment however, the album seems to revert to a sense of self confinement and a refusal to play well with other moods, outside of its very definite emotional scope.
∏• We’ve already seen that Hackman can write a catchy tune and do pop without abandoning her folk leanings, as was evident last year with the excellently whimsical ‘Bath is Black’ single. Notably, she doesn’t seem to even entertain that possibility here, with only a solitary flirtation with anything close to up–tempo to show for it, on the track ‘Animal Fear’.
∏• However Hackman is at her strongest when she’s taking a more raw approach to delivering a song. ‘Ophelia’ is beautifully stripped down case in point, building from the slightest of guitar injection, punctuated piano chords and muted vocals into a much more enveloping affair. ‘Let Me In’ comes off as a slightly contrived effort. A ploddingly bleak listen without any identifiable emotional payoff to supplement the song itself.
∏• Mainly we are taken through similar terrain for the duration of the album, some of which is both engaging and extremely worthwhile. ‘Skin’ is the unmistakable standout, containing moments where some of her phrasing and inflection is not dissimilar to that of Stina Nordenstam. This approach works masterfully, as it also employs subtle vocal theatrics to wonderful effect, allowing Hackman to play something of a dual role in the song’s narrative. Other promising moves are made on ‘Open Wide’, which opens distinctively, grittily resembling little else on the album but finishes up sounding abjectly disjointed and uninspired overall.
∏• Luckily, We Slept At Last itself feels anything but disjointed. On the surface it’s certainly a confident, single–minded and focused collection, which showcases Hackman as an extremely exciting talent but — despite some terrific flourishes — there is the niggling impression that she has created something of an emotionally one–note experience. :: http://state.ie/
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Kate Mossman, Sunday 25 January 2015 08.30 GMT
∏• It’s funny how quickly blue hair fades to green. Marika Hackman demonstrates, twisting the ends of hers into little splayed brushes. She looks like an art student, not a former Burberry model, but three years ago, while her friend Cara Delevingne was wrapping her belted mackintosh around Eddie Redmayne, Hackman could be seen on a billboard advertising aviator sunglasses. She also appeared on the fashion label’s online Acoustic music series — a rather better showcase for her music than a poster campaign — and racked up a fair few hits. When I ask about Burberry she head–butts the table.
∏• “I look back at it now and it’s so naive,” she says. “Clearly the exposure a musician gets from that kind of thing is the wrong crowd — people who are interested in the sunglasses, which frankly I wouldn’t give a shit about. When you’re dealing with big brands like Burberry, people get scared and feel like they’ve got to say it was a great experience. Well you know what? It was kind of a little bit shit!”
∏• Well that’s that out of the way!
∏• “I’ve never been a model,” she explains. “I’m very awkward in front of a camera. It was one long day being prodded and preened and made to put on makeup to make me look like I’m not wearing makeup.”
∏• Hackman’s debut album, We Slept at Last, is due next month. Her natural “awkwardness” translates as something else in her music. Her voice is boyish and unadorned, and her eyes–down approach looks intense rather than diffident. Her songs are full of surprising modulations that lie just on the wrong side of pretty and her guitar playing is steady as a mill–wheel. Hackman mixes something ancient and modern, and typically British, in the way only Nick Mulvey has done in recent years. Her songs sound as old as peat bogs, but as smart as Radiohead. In the past two years she has toured with Laura Marling, the 1975 and alt–J, and has struck up a musical partnership with producer Charlie Andrew.
∏• Hackman, 22, is the daughter of two former animators who now live in rural Devon. She was a day pupil at Bedales, the Hampshire public school famous for hosting the children of celebrities (Lily Allen, Teddy Thompson, Sophie Dahl), letting them call teachers by their first names and — according to some troubled parents — turn up to lessons in their pyjamas. In a week when the 40–year–old James Blunt is still being made to answer for his posh start, Hackman is adamant that Bedales was nothing but a good thing. She and her brother Ben (now a record producer known simply as Hackman) were on bursaries — they couldn’t afford to board — but, perhaps surprisingly, she longed to do so. By sixth form it was just her and one other girl getting picked up by their mums; arriving home just when the fun was starting for everyone else, she applied herself to songwriting. Her father had pulled her first guitar out of a skip. She began composing at 14 and proudly presented her first song to her brother only for him to point out, “you’re such an idiot, that’s by the Foo Fighters”. She and Delevinge briefly formed a covers band at school and rehearsed the hits of the 1990s — such as Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn (“an absolute classic!”).
∏• She cuts a wholesome, smiley kind of figure — you can’t imagine she’d really have suited the fashion world. Her lyrics, and her self–directed videos, reveal an appetite for the grotesque. In 2012’s Cannibal, she recreated a food orgy inspired by the “barforama” in the film Stand By Me: a panel of gluttons stuff themselves with jelly and solid blocks of butter (“they had buckets under the table”). In an early online hit Bath Is Black, written when she was 17, she sank into a tub of poster paint and “had black bogeys for days”. And the video for the new track Animal Fear will feature an evisceration of some kind (a Facebook shot reveals her 1966 Fender Mustang spattered with fake blood). Severed limbs, decomposition and emotional self–sabotage continue to inspire her — in the new song Monday Afternoon she is “breathing in the sickly sweet of my rotting skin”. She wrote the song about the time her appendix burst.
∏• “I’m not a really unhappy, disturbed person but I’ve always had a dark side, I think everyone does,” she says, cheerily enough. “There’s an immense sense of relief once I’ve written a song: it almost feels like you’ve let something go. Songwriting is about trudging through the darker sides of your brain and sifting that stuff out.” The tracks for her first three EPs came together over eight years, but having received a publishing deal from Transgressive in advance of the full–length album, she decided to sit down and see if she could write 12 new ones in the space of two months. Thoughts of Lena Dunham’s disastrous “ebook deadline” in Girls spring to mind; as it turns out, the extreme pressure was a gateway to the dark place all songwriters have to go to.
∏• “I started having trouble sleeping, and anxiety attacks, which I’m prone to every now and again,” she says. “I would be pacing around my room, unable to turn it off. I guess it’s part of the brain that everyone else can suppress or ignore but if you’re writing songs you have to go right in there. You get to that point in the day where you want to go to sleep and you can’t.” When she did finally sleep, she’d occasionally dream melodies — then wake up briefly and record sound files on her phone. She does not recommend it. “Not good when you’re semi–lucid. A risky little game. You listen back in the morning thinking you’re going to hear a smash hit and it’s just the biggest pile of…”
∏• Despite the grungy appearance and creative interest in all things gross, early online reviews branded Hackman as a kind of Kooky Folk Lady — the archetype of the female acoustic singer–songwriter, the musical equivalent, perhaps, of cinema’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl. No one quite knows what Kooky Folk Lady looks like, or indeed whether she really exists, but girls with guitars have always had a slightly fetishistic appeal for the audience that prefers to look rather than listen. “Before I’d even done anything, I was being branded as this twee folk acoustic artist girl running through the grass with a flowing white dress on. I thought: no, I’m just sitting in my bedroom in my jeans and a shirt, writing twisted songs. I nipped that in the bud pretty quickly,” she says. “That was a very conscious decision on my part. To be more and more experimental on my first two EPs and escape it.”
∏• The only way of fighting against the cliche was to keep moving and broadening her sound. As a result, Hackman has been through a steep development in technique and recording processes, unusual for someone who is only just about to release their first album. On We Slept at Last, her songs stand on a lush but airy electro–acoustic landscape full of unidentifiable instruments. The pace is leisurely but dramatic: every now and then, an economically administered chord or cymbal crash seems to open a hole in the floor. She and Charlie Andrew decided to introduce instruments she couldn’t necessarily play properly — the latest is a kantele, like a psaltery or auto-harp, a Christmas present from her Finnish grandparents. “I wanted to change with each record, and experiment with each release, right from the start,” she says. “Nowadays you can be far more experimental because your work isn’t being ploughed into this one precious record that’s got to sell a certain amount. People can always go back and find the EPs — I’m not going to sell them the same music twice — and I think people expect me to do something different each time now, which is a relief, because I write knowing that I’m free to do whatever the hell I want.”
∏• At one point her mother suggested she might want to get herself some singing lessons.
∏• “I was like, a) rude and b) I never want to ‘learn’ how to sing, just like I never want to ‘learn’ to play the guitar. I want to use the guitar and the voice to write songs, and to express them, but I don’t want to be a singer or a guitarist — if that makes sense!”
∏• What goes on between her and Andrew in the studio is equally mysterious. The 34–year–old Andrew produced alt–J’s Mercury–winning An Awesome Wave and has worked with Madness, Deaf School, Darwin Deez and We Were Evergreen. “There is no butting of heads,” she says. “We have the same ideas, and we don’t really have to express them or talk too long about it — we just do it.” I ask her for an example.
∏• “Well, with the song Ophelia,” she says, “I was watching True Detective at the time, and I told him, ‘They smashed that opening credit — I love that cowboy thing, maybe we should take it that way?’ and he said, ‘Could be cool…’ and we got to work.”
∏• The main challenge was knowing where to stop. “It’s the same with painting,” she says (she did an art foundation course in Brighton, working mostly in oil). “You can keep going, keep layering it up, but at some point you’re going to ruin it.”
∏• A few months ago, Hackman moved to London permanently and now lives in the East End, not far from Brick Lane. Her other significant mentor in the business, the itinerant Laura Marling, has recently taken a flat nearby. Last night they were in the pub. Hackman was the main support slot for Marling’s last tours in Europe and Australia. She must have learned a thing or two from her on the road.
∏• “Yes. So I used to get really nervous,” she says. “Not to the extent that it would seriously affect my playing but still, a very uncomfortable amount of nerves. When I went to Europe with Laura, on the first night, we went out for dinner together. We were chatting away and we suddenly realised we had 15 minutes till I had to be on stage. Laura said, ‘All right, let’s go back…’ — and there was only time for me to pick up my guitar and walk on. My nerves just went that day, and they haven’t come back. She’s such a calm performer, and she’s so self-assured that you feel safe watching.”
∏• It seems a long time since Marling’s first album appeared in a limited edition box set featuring, among other things, postcards and a hand–drawn board game based on the stories in her songs. I ask Hackman if Marling gave her any advice on how to manage her image, in a world still unsure quite what to do with each new girl–and–guitar.
∏• “We’ve talked about it quite a lot,” she says, “But the thing is, Laura is now just viewed as a songwriter: she’s one of the only girls out there who is viewed that way. I’m not sure I can even think of another, who can stand there with a guitar and sing a song, and be valued simply as a shit–hot singer–songwriter, not a ‘girl’ singer–songwriter.”
∏• I ask her whether Joni Mitchell would also be Kooky Folk Lady were she emerging now in 2015. No, she says, because the strong ones always rise to the top.
|We Slept at Last|