The Waiting Room – 6th June
You wouldn’t know that singer-songwriter Amber Mark is only in her early twenties from listening to her music. Having quietly uploaded her first track, ‘S p a c e’, to Soundcloud late last year, the powerful vocal set to an undulating tabla rhythm was quickly picked up by Zane Lowe who catapulted the unsigned artist into music industry, and Spotify playlist, consciousness. Following this unexpectedly successful debut, Mark dropped her first EP 3:33am earlier this month. A collection of deeply personal tracks on the bereavement following the loss of Mark’s mother in 2013, as its title suggests, 3:33am occupies the insomniac space of introspection, journeying through conflicting emotions of anger, sadness, and joyous release.
Riding the consequent blogosphere hype, Mark’s debut UK live show at the Waiting Room was a sold-out affair. The claustrophobic sauna temperatures of the Waiting Room basement only heightened anticipation for Mark to take to the stage, squeezing in her three-piece band and horn section at the back of the room. Opening with a melodic showcase of her dark, yet impassioned voice, she soon launched into single ‘Lose My Cool’. The mixture of live keys with pre-recorded backing vocals and part-electronic drumming made for a satisfying interpretation of the polished production on the record.
In fact, it was the groove-heavy numbers like ‘Lose My Cool’ and ‘Way Back’ that fared best in her 45-minute set. Utilising a back-to-basics approach of chord-heavy piano, four-to-the-floor drums and infectious melody, these tracks displayed an artist with the potential for a mainstream breakthrough.
Conversely, though, some of the more esoteric numbers like ‘Monsoon’ employed an incongruous use of South Asian sounds, muddying the arrangement and leaving Mark’s voice too exposed in acapella sections. Whilst ‘Can You Hear Me’ and its toe-tapping sprightliness equally felt jarring against the electronic undercurrents of the rest of the set.
For a debut performance, Mark certainly displayed potential. Despite her nerves and lack of live training, her closing number, an as-yet unreleased, Pharrell-style groover, bodes well for a future focus on writing melodic hooks without unnecessary adornment.