New Band of the Day #354

Taken from The Guardian website

No 354: The Mummers
Today’s new artist sounds like Björk if she had never been seduced by club culture and instead focused on being a sort of weird 21st-century Doris Day

Hometown: Brighton.

The lineup: Raissa Khan-Panni (vocals), Mark Horwood (music), Paul Sandrone (production), plus a cast of thousands, well, tens.

The background: The Mummers, it says here, were “the medieval performing troupes who would go from door-to-door wearing masks and costumes, staging plays in rhyme and song and mime.” Which should give you some idea of the flavour you get from the Mummers, a big band from Brighton via Venus who feature the extraordinary, quirky and quixotic vocals of Raissa Khan-Panni (even more extraordinary if you’ve never heard Bjork) and some exquisitely otherworldly songs performed by her shifting, fluctuating, raggle-taggle bunch of musician friends who tend to pitch up at various locations and make enchanting, magical music on the spot. They don’t wear masks or costumes – not like their most obvious orchestral-pop peers the Irrepressibles, who we saw perform this weekend on a lake (well, on a stage on a lake) at the Latitude festival, fronted by a gentleman with a neo-operatic quaver of a voice dressed as a futuristic condor – but they do sound like they come from another place, another time.

With a mixture of Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Russian blood, the south London-born Khan-Panni comes from many other places, and she’s travelled far and wide: her parents used to take her out of school to go travelling, at 12 she trekked across India, and at 18 she covered the whole of Europe and America. Something of a classical music prodigy, she busked all over Europe, performing Mozart in Vienna, where she played guitar, oboe, violin, and sang along to a ghetto blaster, before coming home to study music in Bristol. This all might explain the strange, unplaceable nature of her music, which came out of a miserable, bleak period waitressing in Brixton and which she describes as “trying to make fairytale versions out of the mundane”.

And you might remember her from another time, because, like Franz Ferdinand, the Ting Tings and so many other “new” bands, she has A Past, having recorded several albums as Raissa, supported Suede’s Brett Anderson and been remixed by Cypress Hill. The Mummers are good enough to make you want to check out her previous work, but they’re also so good that you don’t need to. If you liked Björk’s brief foray into post-war Hollywood musical territory on It’s Oh So Quiet, you’ll love what Raissa, collaborator Mark Horwood and producer Paul Sandrone plus their various musicians – on violin, cello, double bass, trombone, French horn, flute, drums and keyboards – have achieved on the Mummers’ debut mini-album, Tale to Tell (Part One), which comprises eight pieces of music of quite remarkable childlike wonder and beauty.

The buzz: “From string-laden atmospherics to singalong pop, via faraway nursery rhymes and swoony dramas.”

The truth: It sounds like Björk if she had never been seduced by club culture, techno, drum’n’bass and the avant garde and instead focused on being a sort of weird 21st-century Doris Day.

Most likely to: Bewitch, bother and bewilder.

Least likely to: Cause head-banging at gigs.

What to buy: Debut mini-album, Tale to Tell (Part One), is released on August 25 by Big Bass Drum.

File next to: Bat for Lashes, Björk, Stina Nordenstam, the Irrepressibles.