Rather than resting or rehearsing for tonight’s gig, a weary looking Marika Hackman spent the hours leading up to the final show of her tour tracking down her stolen guitar. Donning her Miss Marple hat, she got hold of CCTV footage of someone swiping her beloved vintage Epiphone Coronet from central London’s Embassy Club, took to Twitter and, after much ranting and raving (“Bring him DOWN”, “I hope you burn in hell”…) and retweeting, the culprit returned it… just in time for the show.
Not that you could tell what a stressful 24 hours she’s had; she might be knackered, but she spent the lead up to her slot kicking back, munching on a burger upstairs before strolling onstage and launching straight into Bath Is Black with no hello, and no intro. Instead, her gentle strumming became gradually louder, marking the start of the gig.
For the uninitiated, it’s the perfect introduction to Hackman; a mind-warping voice from a refreshingly sincere, no frills kinda girl. The lack of fuss and jazz-hands makes her live show all the more captivating; from the very moment she opens her mouth (though barely – her lips only just part when she sings, the lyrics seemingly creeping out) she has her audience under a spell and it’s impossible to take your eyes from her.
Her voice has a haunted, Nico-ish quality, which she pits against gentle, fluttering guitar, while her lyrics have a suitably spooked, fairtale-gone-wrong feel to them. The bulk of tonight’s 45-minute set comes courtesy of recently released mini-album, That Iron Taste. Its seven tracks include double A-side You Come Down/Mountain Spines – a beautiful pairing that make the move onto the live stage with ease. In fact, the whole album does – only Bath Is Black loses anything in translation. A lively song that allows Hackman to flex her voice, it’s got Transgressive labelmates Theme Park’s breezy, pop vein running through it. But it’s by no means light of weight; the produced version adds menace to her voice.
A non-album track to get an airing is the wonderful Here I Lie. The folkiest of her output, it’s also the creepiest. “This song’s a happy one… it’s about someone who goes to meet their love in the woods, but they don’t turn up so they lie on the floor and die,” she says, “But there’s a twist! Their love turns up… but they’re already dead.” And so begins a tale of “sickly sweet, rotting flesh” and lost limbs, decaying into forest floors.
A new song shows the other side to Hackman; switching to the recovered electric guitar (“The bastard’s made my strap too long!”) she strums out an aching, industrial sound that’s slower than her usual light-fingered breeze, instead channelling Joy Division. She’s visibly nervous covering Joanna Newsom’s 81; it’s the only time she makes any demands of the sound desk, but she needn’t have worried – they’re lyrically on a par and it feels just so.
It’s a short set that felt even shorter; Hackman is a captivating and intriguing singer, and her first full-length album can’t come soon enough.