thu 25/07/2024

The Mummers, King's College London | reviews, news & interviews

The Mummers, King's College London

The Mummers, King's College London

Brighton-based chamber poppers provide an evening of wonder and awe

Raissa Khan-Panni: Life is, again, a cabaret

In the lager-carpeted sweat box that is the KCL student union it was hard to fault The Mummers. There are some concerts where band and audience seem so lost in a private world that you can almost forget that the humdrum, everyday world even exists. Last night was one. It was no surprise that Raissa Khan-Panni and her gang were there to transport us. What did come as a revelation, however, was just how big it sounded. The musicianship was just the half of it, though.

The expansiveness The Mummers created came from the fact that their music is loaded with imagination and astonishment.

This tour, however, almost never happened. In 2009, when Mark Horwood, the orchestrator responsible for The Mummers’ carnival soundscape, was found hanged in his Treetop studio, many thought they’d never perform again. The band spent over a year “cocooned” in contemplation. Tours were cancelled and recordings deferred. Then the rumours started that the mourning was over and a new EP was on its way. Most assumed, however, that they couldn’t sound the same. They felt that it wasn't just a sad irony that The Mummers' carefree dreamscape was forged in such a troubled imagination, it was also difficult to imagine how they could recreate their naïve euphoria without him. But you have to move on, and last night The Mummers showed that it was business as usual. And some.

Raissa came on looking not unlike Jesca Hoop, in a "flapper" feathered headband, a lace wedding dress and a pair of Lily Allen-style basketball boots, and, with seven band members behind her, she proceeded to enchant and mesmerise. “Drive Home” was the first song from the new EP Mink Hollow Road (pictured below) which, over the evening, was aired in its entirety. Organs swelled, strings stirred and like “Nightbus” which closed the evening it showed the band’s ability to create fantasy and narrative out of the most ordinary situations. In this instance she was describing a drive through Florida as if we were somewhere in Central Europe in the 19th century. In the more directly fairytale “Wonderland” Raissa moved about the stage like a Gothic puppet, occasionally playing pied piper with her melodica. The crowd, who looked like Radio 6 listeners, soon became totally spellbound. And then she did something very cute. She handed a fan her microphone, left the stage and reappeared behind him on the floor. She then performed “Place For Us”, a song reminiscent of the heyday of Hollywood musicals, wandering through the audience.

mink_hollowRaissa’s vocals have often been compared to Björk’s but last night her voice was more rounded. The comparison comes partly from her register but more because of her attitude. In that packed student union there sure was something very gypsy about the way she sang.

On 2009's Tale to Tell there was also something unabandoned about the material she and the band produced. But far from struggling to reproduce this sound with the new EP, the problem has been the other way round. In fact, the odd excursion into jazz notwithstanding, it’s maybe all getting a little too stylised and similar. So it was good to see two forays into a different style - soft rock - during the evening. Except, disappointingly, the current single “Fade Away”, a cover of a little-known Todd Rundgren number, was one of the flatter moments in the evening. However, a real high point in an evening of many, was The Black Keys' “Everlasting Light” recast as power pop with stabs of horn and cascades of strings.

Aside from Raissa’s voice, it was Rob Heasman's horn sound that stayed with me most on the journey home. During the “cool jazz” solo on “Lorca and the Orange Tree”, you could hear it almost as loud acoustically as through the amplification. I feel as if I'm gushing but really this was an uplifting night. Still, it was probably a mistake for Raissa to wander through the crowd for a second time in the jazzy “Cherry Heart”. You should never, after all, try and recreate the same magic twice. It was, however, made up for by her swooning, honey-glazed vocals on “This is Heaven”.

Despite her difficult last year it always seemed likely that Raissa would continue in some form, it just wasn’t certain whether that would be with The Mummers or not. It is now.

The Mummers perform "Wonderland" on Later... with Jools Holland

Raissa moved about the stage like a Gothic puppet, occasionally playing pied piper with her melodica

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Hard not to gush (or swoon) - this most definitely was an astonishing performance. One of the most purely skilled and enjoyable gigs I've been to. Their abilities far outstripped the size of the venue and Raissa will soon be commanding larger stages - Bjork, Martha Wainwright...The Unthanks...Rosemary Clooney...all rolled into one! I came to the event a bit jangled and a bit grumpy but felt uplfted after the first few bars of Driving Home. Positively skipped all the way home!

In heaven? We were. Thanks, Mummers

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