Times Live Review – 13/11/08

The Mummers at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, N1 – 4 out of 5

Review taken from the Time Online website

Had Alice’s Wonderland had a house band, they may well have sounded like the Mummers. A chaotic collective of super-talented, slightly out-there musicians, their name refers to medieval performing troupes and their majestic songs defy all the usual rules of pop: rather than write melodies or rhythms, complex, classical-like arrangements swell around the swooping vocals of the singer Raissa Khan-Panni.

As striking visually as sonically, the Mummers’ eight-piece live line-up included a beautiful, willowy blonde dwarfed by her double bass, a pair of pretty violinists who could also coo like birds, a bloke behind banks of electronic equipment and a percussionist who played bass at the same time.

An instrumental was already in full swing when Khan-Panni came on in a cream-coloured chiffon prom dress. A former classical music student who once busked Mozart in Vienna and was almost a pop star in her early twenties — she released solo albums under the name Raissa, but narrowly missed having a hit — Khan-Panni’s closest vocal comparison is Björk (notably in her late Nineties Homogenic phase), though fans of Alison Goldfrapp in pastoral mode, Kate Bush and even Alison Moyet would be gripped by her dramatic, theatrical delivery.

Released this week as a free download, the set opener March of the Dawn was a joyous, mesmerising classical march, while Wonderland was part French film score, part oompa band, part soundtrack to a nature documentary. As well as her effortless, otherworldly singing, Khan-Panni played glockenspiel, provided melodica parts, fluttered across the stage chiming tiny finger cymbals, banged a tambourine and shook strings of miniature bells and maracas. She even ripped off Yeats’ The Second Coming on the electronic-tinged 2 Survivors.

The Mummers’ only commercial release to date is a mini album, Tale to Tell (Part One), in the summer. The second part is due early next year and if the two tracks taken from it were any indication, Khan-Panni could be the most intriguing new star of 2009. Stuck in the Middle featured a jaw-dropping vocal performance, while a happy Heaven skipped along on what came close to a toe-tapping pop melody.