The spirits have stirred. The medium? Marika Hackman, of course. Having collaborated with alt-J – touring with said indie behemoth as well as in her own right last year – the landing of her debut LP We Slept At Last has seen the chatter around the London-based songstress increasing from gentle murmurs to a dull roar.
Delightfully melancholy and steeped in paganistic darkness, Hackman has constructed an album that gracefully straddles both gloom and glow (although sometimes the gloom can overpower). Her vocals are delicate, and she has a deft musicality, notably on tracks like the heart-rending Ophelia.
The eerie Drown sets the mood of the album nicely: gentle acoustic strums disturb decades of dust, swirling harmonies that entrance. Before I Sleep, with its haunting arrangement is like hot breath on cold windows, Hackman’s musical condensation vanishing as quickly as it appears. Elsewhere, Open Wide is satisfactorily creepy (we have a gauge, FYI), and not just because the riff immediately brings to mind Radiohead’s Creep: an understated, 90s-influenced surprise within an otherwise electro-folk offering.
Hackman is clearly specialising in metaphysical mystique that is simultaneously dark and sweet. Animal Fear fires a gunshot (literally, with sample) through the chewy stupor, an upbeat sojourn before In Words and Monday Afternoon bring us back to subtle folk-laced spooky. Undone, Undress, with its Tibetan-like chants is wonderfully oppressive, a mood maintained until the album closes. Consider us haunted, then; We Sleep At Last is well and truly under our (goose-bumped) skin.