After listening to the new Mama Kin Spender EP, Are You Listening?, several times, the word that keeps coming up is this: sorcery. It is sorcery. ‘Bewitching’ isn’t strong enough to describe the effect of the combined talents of Danielle Caruana (Mama Kin) and Tommy Spender. There are four tracks on this EP – ‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ was the first single – which each have distinct identities and sounds, but the effect of all four together is to hold the listener completely entranced.
Sorcery needs work, of course – you can’t cast a spell without knowing what you’re doing – and each song is so mindfully crafted that Caruana and Spender have clearly put in the work, separately and together. They have known each other for twenty years, and that connection with and knowledge of each other doesn’t mean they’re coasting here: instead, they seem to use their familiarity to reach into themselves and each other to pull out secrets and truths.
‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ is the opening track and it never loses its power no matter how many times you listen to it. Second track ‘Eye of the Storm’ uses instruments and vocals to gloriously evoke the unease of being in the eye.
They employ layered vocals in ‘Blue Belle’ to almost literally cause a rumble in the belly, and a pull of almost primal recognition (the acoustic version of ‘Blue Belle’ has its premiere here: see the video below).
The last track, ‘The Road’, opens up sonically to suggest freedom and mystery. Caruana and Spender share the lead vocals, each urging the other on down the road.
This is a gutsy, emotional, strong, passionate collection of songs that truly feel like they are written and performed from the heart, and, therefore, reach into the heart of the listener. They’re challenging because there’s nowhere for the listener to hide here – Caruana and Spender are asking as much honesty of the listener as they have offered themselves. This is not music for a lazy afternoon. It’s for shouting at the moon and digging into the earth. And it may only be four songs long but there’s such a range of experiences in those four that you feel as though you’ve been on a complete journey: of being alive, of being human, of not resiling from all the experiences life has to throw at and offer you. It’s not an EP for the faint of heart or the lily livered. Gird your loins, gear up, and prepare to be present – Mama Kin Spender have done all of that, and more, and that’s the only fitting way to receive what they offer here.
Are You Listening? is out now.