The Mummers are a tale of a talent being put on hold and then re-emerging even stronger. This is certainly the case with Raissa Khan-Panni who released a well received solo album under her first name in 2000. Alas, as is so often the case, critical acclaim didn’t equate to sales and Khan-Panni went back to a life of waitressing. All was not lost however as she continued writing with Raissa collaborator Paul Sandrone and then eventually got to work with orchestral arranger Mark Horwood. Finally the three got together to write an album as The Mummers and what a wonderful fairytale of a record they have made here.
Very few bands manage to make the best use of an orchestra; sometimes using them as an excuse to blow their budget and frequently mistaking a bigger sound for a better performance. Under the experience hand of Horwood that’s never a problem. Yes, each song is underscored by variations of flute, cello, violin, trumpets et al but they’re designed to complement the music around them and help to create their vintage cinematic sound. Khan-Panni herself has been compared to Björk and there are certainly parallels to be drawn between the two in terms of both vocal range and quirkiness. Yet the former judges her performance to suit the arrangements; making this very much a band album rather than a solo vehicle.
As opening tracks go, ‘March Of The Dawn’ has it all; a genuinely spine-tingling song thanks to a gorgeously emotive turn from Raissa Khan-Panni and a fabulous arrangement which is part Hollywood, part Disney. ‘This Is Heaven (Glow)’ emits similar positive feelings with a song that can’t help but put a smile on the listener’s face. Despite its title, ‘Wonderland’ is a rare melancholic moment; the Moog parts only adding to the strangeness. Meanwhile, ‘Teardropsfall’ and the uncredited final track represent the subtle side of The Mummers but they still tingle with their unique magic.
As a tragic footnote to this record, Horwood has since passed away. It would be too early and disrespectful to speculate whether The Mummers will carry on but what is certain is that they have left behind at least one fantastic record.
Björk, The Divine Comedy