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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

One to Watch for 2010; The Lovely Laura J Martin

Fresh New Talent, Direct From Liverpool

Written by Cari Steel

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LJMpic2

I could say that Laura J Martin is as ethereal and otherworldly as Bat For Lashes, seek and I could tell you that her haunting musical tales reminds me of listening to a young Kate Bush, and if I really wanted to, approved I could say that her ability to take a pastoral folk sound and twist an electro beat around it puts me in mind of the great Alison Goldfrapp. Like I said, I could say all of that, but that would be thinking inside the box, and I’m going to take my cue from Laura, who has probably never thought inside the box a day in her life. Instead I am going to say that she reminds me of a hummingbird. Watching her on stage, wielding her flute with the swiftness and precision of a warrior using a samurai sword, you can’t quite believe that something so light and delicate can beat its wings so fast. But she does, and we can only stand in awe.

Described by the people behind The Big Chill (who obviously know what they’re talking about) as “the world’s finest flute wielding, piano playing, mandolin toting singer-songwriter”, Laura goes one step further and offers up this description of her sound and style; “think folkie weirdie beardie (without the beardie) funki (with an ‘i’) mixed in a cauldron with some jazzy slurp + niceness squared = me.” Well put. Now, when I first saw her play, I knew nothing about Laura and I will take this opportunity to shamefully confess that I quickly summed up this adorable pixie in front of me with her flute and her mandolin and thought, “Oh OK, it’s going to be a bit folky.” (Not, I hasten to add, that there is anything wrong with folk.) My point is simply this; if you go see Laura J Martin live, expect the unexpected. Armed with her trusty loopstation, which sits at her feet, she takes the already beautiful sounds that come from her instruments and creates a multi-layered composition of melodies that perfectly compliments her sweet but haunting voice. Catching up with her during a phone chat recently, the Liverpool born, Leeds based singer mused upon the nature of musical genres, and how defining her sound into one style will never give you the full illuminated picture. “My style derives mainly from the instruments that I play, and my main instrument is the flute. So my sound definitely has elements of folk, but I wouldn’t like to be boxed as just that. In the past when I’ve taken part in jam sessions, I’ve played a lot of funk flute. I don’t want people to get the impression that it’s all serious folk” she adds, “I do like to have a beat in my music, in fact, the tracks that I like to perform live the most are the ones with a beat.”

LJM@Bowery

Live at The Bowery, Sheffield. Photography by Peter Martin

Over the course of our conversation I discover that validity of this statement. Laura is a jam session veteran; lending her voice and musical ability to performances by hip hop, experimentalism and jazz artists (a much beloved musical style of Laura’s, who rates Herbie Mann as a key influence). Recent collaborations have been with diverse and left-field artists such as the hip hop/turntablist/rock and blues singer Buck 65 (“He’s one of my hero’s”) and kidkanevil. “He’s a hip hop producer and beat maker”, she tells me, “His style is very eclectic. I was involved in his live show for a few years.”

LJMpic3

So how did this petite virtuoso come to possess her musical wizardry? I suggested to Laura that her childhood must have involved imps and faeries and nights spent running across deserted moors. “Not quite!” she laughs, “I did go up in suburban Liverpool after all!”. Still, she reflects, “I was a geek. I used to like climbing trees and exploring. I would find excitement in very small things.” Clearly, this free spirited childhood helped shape the creative and imaginative grown up Laura. Case in point; when she “gets up to mischief” in the name of finding a beat; “I’ve gone into the kitchen and banged pots and pans…. it’s all about getting a stick and banging things and seeing what comes out!” And when I ask about the inspiration for her track Dokidoki, she cites the weather for pointing her towards the melody that she would use. “It was a very sunny day,” she explains, “And I was in a really good mood. I went into the shower and the melody came out!”

A major creative highlight of Laura’s was a year spent in Japan, where she immersed herself in the music scene, taking part in numerous jam sessions, namely with the group Soil & “Pimp”. Already being fascinated with Asian culture (and a devotee of Kung Fu films, “the melodies are ace!” she laughs) she used her time productively. “I didn’t watch much T.V, it was all about listening to music, practicing music and reading and not being spoon-fed anything.” Her time in Japan was certainly eventful; one night she awoke to discover that her balcony was in flames, in what was later discovered to be an arson attack. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and Laura – as ever – was open to inspiration in the most unexpected of scenarios and took the opportunity to research the history of Japans arson attacks, a journey which led her to the mother of all arsonists (and legends) Yaoya Oshichi. Oshichi, she explains, then went on to become the subject matter of her track ‘Fire Horse‘. See? Like I told you, her influences and inspirations are as diverse and eclectic as she is.

LJM by Jess SwainsonIllustration by Jess Swainson

Now back on her home turf, Laura plans to keep going full steam ahead with her career. As well as releasing her new track ‘The Hangman Tree’ in early 2010 (check her MySpace for details) she is finishing up her new album and planning her gigs for the months ahead. Lucky Londoners can see her performing this Saturday as part of the You Choose Jamboree night. The venue is undisclosed, but sign up to You Choose Jamborees guest list, and the location will be emailed to you. I can’t wait to see what the New Year has in store for Laura J Martin, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

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