An interesting debut that will find an audience within her community.
Bristol has been a centre of independent music of all styles for a long time from trip hop to the indie-pop of Sarah Records. Anna Anise has been playing in some of the local venues that focus on the art and alternative scenes rather than the more general local folk club/pub circuit. She is also an alumnus of the BIMM Institute, a music education business whose aims are to help prepare students for “a successful career in the music industry”. Released on the local Cuculi label who support “the emerging projects dreamed into being by friends from our community” this is her debut record.
The album is the product of a couple of years work. Anise herself plays guitar, mandolin, banjo and piano. The best playing on the album is the fiddle probably played by Bethany M Roberts (there are no credits and relatively little information provided). The Arabian flavoured solo on ‘Midas Touch’ is one of the musical high-points. It also has one of the biggest arrangements here with bass and drums. It is the harmony vocals that elevate some of the songs and create an ethereal feel that is lost a little when Anise sings on her own. She has a message to get across in these songs, and sometimes that leads to there being simply too many words. Rather than letting the tune dictate the flow of the words she crams in too much information trying to force the melody to convey the message. ‘And His Wife’ is one of the songs that just avoids this, and it’s the harmonies and fiddle that rescue it. The title song has a great chorus, but the verses trip themselves up sometimes. ‘To be Adored’ is mostly acapella, and shows Anise off as a really good singer, on the right song. There are string scrapes on the guitar that detract badly from the otherwise good ‘Melissa’ and on ’All That Magic’ it’s hard to tell if the background rumbling is intentional or an artifact of the home recording. As Anise seems to be aiming for a DIY ethic she may well not be bothered by these or other production issues, but they do impact on the listener. I assume the comparisons to First Aid Kit, Neko Case and Laura Viers are aspirational as while this is a quite acceptable debut effort she is not yet ready to be bracketed with those artists.
The objective of ‘All That Magic’ was presumably to expose Anise’s music to her community rather than to be the springboard to a commercial career. As such it succeeds, and the experience of writing and recording it will inform her development as an artist. It is unlikely to make waves outside what the Cuculi website describes as the “creative cocoon” of her supporters and friends.