Marika Hackman – Deaf Heat EP

Deaf HeatHampshire nu-folk diva-to-be Marika Hackman has dished out only fair sized portions of her melancholic compositions thus far. Last year her That Iron Taste and Sugar Blind EPs, both collaborations with Alt-J producer Charlie Andrews, beautifully resonated her acoustic and effects-driven chords within the blogosphere and beyond. Deaf Heat is her third mini album in a row, and whilst there's a full-length to be expected later in the year, these tracks make a perfectly firm case for artists what want to serve only small doses.

The opener, “Tongues” steals only two minutes of the record, but takes less than ten seconds to put you at peace. The vocals; a seemingly continuous stream of lengthily held notes; act more like a conductor to the instrumental work than an accompaniment. It feels like medieval-sounding music without the associated novelty and forcefulness, and is particularly an experimental triumph when the marginally more clean vocals leave their trail at the end of each bar. Probably Marika’s biggest departure to date, anyone studied up on her evolution can still trace back the lineage of this composition with ease.

If the Deaf Heat EP can be described as a whole, it stares off in a new direction without taking a step more than it has to. “Deep Green” ventures into uncharted territory with its jungle-like drums, but quickly resorts to this darkened smiled songwriter’s strange choice of metaphors as she describes an untouchable love as water, “clean and warm and green” but lamenting, “I’m not allowed to swim." Musically a bit Beirut and vocally a bit Bon Iver, “Call Off The Dogs” is a vast expanse of tempos and tried and tested tools, from highly interpersonal lyrics to an unmatchable wailing guitar sound that is undoubtedly one of her own unique invention.

As per tradition, Deaf Heat finishes with a remarkable cover of Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers”. While it relies on the original version’s desperately catchy hook, it also replaces the obvious electronics with a more baggy and brooding set of tones. Like so many upbeat pop anthems, Li’s chart topper was always destined for slower re-imaging, yet it also appears to be made for Marika to place her meditative singing voice over.

These tracks would undoubtedly have risen Marika Hackman to higher indie heights had they been used at her unveiling, but at this point in her career it’s great to be able to spot the blossoming signs of an artist already maturing. One should always shy away from describing an artist’s change in sound as a ladder, as it suggests there’s a single most desired outcome, but whatever Marika is climbing and whatever direction its facing, Deaf Heat carves another great notch into it.

Release: 14th April 2014, Dirty Hit

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