MARA & THE INNER STRANGENESS
Rewiuv by Nicolas Dewulf
What: Concert Mara & The Inner Strangeness When: Saturday August 24th, 2013 Where: Bastard Bar, Tromsø On a lovely and bright Saturday night in the northern metropolis of Tromsø, I decided to check out this jam/music/atmospheric bar called Bastard, in the heart of the center. I shall remember my first time entering this bar as setting foot into a place of obscurity, and darkness with dimmed lights, intellectual depth and soulful poetry in the air and a specific vibe you’d only find in 1920s jazz bars, where gin was secretly brewed in the basement. Mara & The Inner Strangeness, an ensemble whose name would fit perfectly well as the sign board of this bar, represents a combination of weird jazz, funk and blues compositions and literally breathes the dark atmosphere of the music they play. I was chatting at the bar with two friends, when the band suddenly rose up from their corner seats and took place on the small stage. Preceded by an intriguing monologue, they started their set with a rather quiet piece, which would eventually burst open, with the addition of one instrument at the time. This was a great starting point from which to delve into the depths of expressive jazz and blues. As I did not know this band beforehand, I was pleasantly relieved so-to-say, not having to compare studio recordings with this live performance and I could ramble in my mind about the influences I was hearing. I could just immerse myself into the music. By the way, I can’t imagine a performance being stronger or ‘with more surrender’ on record, than the one vocalist and front woman Mara did live, a real eye catcher. Influences that came to my mind during their act were Tom Waits, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Midlake, a rather unknown Canadian band called Half Past Four and some spacey Pink Floyd every now and then. It seems like there were some Mahavishnu Orchestra vibes in there as well at times. Furthermore, their Taliban Airways cover ‘Easily Amused’ had a serious Led Zeppelin vibe (as in ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’). Mara sang highs and lows, she shouted, walked around, cried out loud and laughed manically. Carried by the sometimes heavily brawling, sometimes peacefully, almost silently playing band, she definitely took away the main role in this play. Vocally, I might describe her as a female version of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant at times, strange as it might seem, with the stage expression of Jim Morrison. This doesn’t mean that the band was merely a provider of ‘background sounds’. On the contrary: we heard great, atonal and immersive guitar solos that could have been Guthrie Govan’s, jazzy Dixie Dregs-ish bass riffs, mellotron- and other keyboard sounds by a girl who also played accordion and the impressive and complex rhythms of two drummers, bringing much more than just their drum kits into the whole (cajons, brushes and bells for instance). The sum total was a well attuned, jazz conservatory-trained sextet that brought interesting, although not very accessible, music to my ear. One had to pay attention to ‘get’ the image and it’s praiseworthy that bands like Mara & The Inner Strangeness still dare to make complex music in this day and age of flat commercial recycling. Heads up!