With Marika Hackman’s latest record showcasing a bold new direction in sound and identity, we headed to Islington Assembly Hall last Thursday to experience this triumphant, new-found creative confidence live.
If there was a signifier that Marika Hackman was no longer confined to the borderline twee, alt-folk persona she’d shaped for herself it would be her recent album Any Human Friend. Though tender and celestial at times, it shifts in intensity to confident and caustic throughout. Not only has her palette developed (partly attributed to working with sorcerous experimental musician/producer David Wrench), but also her identity.
Given her recent sartorial press shots, it threw me a bit to see her dressed fully in boiler-suit-chic, though it served as a visual cue for her grungier rebirth. With her name splatted on a banner in the background, her streamlined four-piece set-up gave her plenty of room to wail on lead guitar as convincingly as her not-so-prudent lyrics. And the sold-out crowd was truly sold on her riot grrrl abandon.
The feeling that Hackman’s staunchly dedicated fanbase has only strengthened since her last album is palpable, evidenced in the reception she receives tonight. The fumbling eroticism of ‘all night’ and the trippy indie-disco of ‘the one’ allude to her experiences re-entering the realm of singledom, and they were welcomed with chest-bursting cheers each time she revealed each song.
Hackman herself may be navigating a period of post-breakup reinvention, but her devotees are more than happy to guide her through it – launching bras on stage is one way to convey that sentiment, at least.
Ironically as the crowd removed their layers, the majority of Any Human Friend, which she primarily stuck to this evening, displays a more layered, textured approach to Hackman’s craft; rather than relying solely on her soothing vocals and scant guitar, throbbing synths echo throughout ‘blow’, potential manifestations of her unattached libido. Coupled with her jolting guitar and solid garage band ensemble here at Islington Assembly Hall, ’i’m not where you are’ and ‘conventional ride’ drew parallels with the likes of The Breeders and Sleater-Kinney, albeit hyper-stimulated.
Though chatty, charming, and comfortable, egging on the crowd throughout, Hackman lacked the bolshy allure that her recent material promised, emphasising that she’s still a performer in transit. When those slight cracks appeared in her masquerade, however, her coy almost disbelieving smiles spurred on intermittent rapture from the crowd.
Undoubtedly the loftiest applause was reserved for ‘hand solo’, accompanied that day by the release of her delightfully suggestive video, as well as the boldest introduction: “This next song is about masturbating” Hackman flatly declared. Surely that’s a Mercury Prize award right there?
“It’s never gonna be like it was before” she expresses on ‘send my love’. And that can only be a good thing.
Header photo credit: Joost Vandebrug