wears the trousers magazine


sounding off: august 2009 (i)

In this first part of our monthly roundup of releases we didn’t get time to review in full over the last four weeks, we take a look at some great releases from All The Fires, Amiina and Annie & The Beekeepers.

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All The Fires
‘The Map’ EP ••••
Hobo 

Orchestral folk-pop may not be one of music’s most recognisably innovative forms, but don’t equate that with an inability to stir and provoke. Mirroring the famous Korzybski philosophy from which this EP derives its name – “the map is not the territory” – this six-piece band from Falmouth in Cornwall arrive with this debut release to prove once again that genre abstractions can be sorely misleading. All The Fires are a talented bunch who construct often mysterious tales rich in layered three-part harmonies from singers Rosalie James, Kathryn Williams (not the one from Newcastle) and Matthew Dixon, scattering vibrant natural imagery and literary references among them. The Cornish air has clearly got into their heads and blown away any cobwebs as these five tracks all display an impressive clarity and uncommon grace.

Opening with the lyrical ‘Found You’, which seesaws with a similarly beautiful lightness of touch that made Bic Runga’s Beautiful Collision such a rare treat, the EP goes from strength to strength. Referencing the dwindling Cornish language, ‘Bys Vyken’ (‘for ever’) is a typically sumptuous piano ballad, supported by Williams’s unfalteringly pretty cello, while the magical ‘Zugunruhe’ (a biological phenomenon of anxiety and sleep disturbances generally seen in migrating animals) saves the best for last with a wistful tale of staying in a seaside town during the winter. Moving and compelling, ‘The Map’ is a bit like being in a huge maze with beautiful trees and flowers at every turn. You know you have to find the exit eventually but part of you just doesn’t want to get there.

Claire Robinson
UK release date: 01/07/09; www.myspace.com/allthefires


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Amiina
Re Minore EP ••••
Self-released 

There is much not to like about Amiina, if you are the jealous type; all four women are beautiful and extremely accomplished musicians, blessed with the kind of cool grace that only emanates from the presence of real talent. Famously best friends with fellow Icelanders Sigur Rós, often providing the string section for Jónsi Birgisson’s eccentric live sets, they have steadily built an international reputation of their own for producing wonderfully diverse and slightly electronic instrumental compositions, most notably for their 2007 full-length debut Kurr. Capable of playing a vast array of instruments, any Amiina composition might call upon the accordion, strings, glockenspiel, saw, and various keyboard noises and loops. Despite this, Re Minore, their third release, is refreshingly free from clutter and transfixes the listener with subtle rhythms and interwoven trinkets of melody.

Sólrún, María, Edda and Hildur have a delicacy to their playing that suggests a positive lack of conscience for an audience. The familiarity and friendship between the girls transpires in the tranquil disposition of this trio of new songs. Minimalist in parts and ambient in style, this is truly magnificent stuff. Highlight is the accordion-driven ‘Ásinn’, which spins around an ethereal theme with ever continuing string loops. The only hazard will be actually tracking a copy of this down. Only 500 vinyl copies were pressed, making Re Minore a genuine treasure in every way.

Anja McCloskey
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/amiina

 

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Annie & The Beekeepers
Squid Hell Sessions EP •••
Self-released 

Naming themselves after the rather alarming collapse and disappearance of bee colonies the world over, this Boston-based trio first convened at Berklee College of Music in December 2006. Self-taught guitarist Annie Lynch first met cellist Alexandra Spalding when she saw her playing in a Joni Mitchell tribute ensemble, later adding upright bass player Ken Woodward to ground their compositions. From their first rehearsals in Woodward’s “frigid basement” to high profile industry shows at CMJ and SXSW, Annie & The Beekeepers have come a long way in a relatively short time. 

Following on from last year’s well-received self-titled debut comes this six-track EP, recorded at Squid Hell Studios in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. A collection of new songs and live favourites, Lynch describes this predominantly gloomy affair as “dark, rich and deeply satisfying”, and she’s pretty much on the button. The songs may be decidedly melancholy, but there’s something defiantly unsinkable in their acoustic sails as earthy bluegrass melodies are burnished with Lynch and Spalding’s exquisite, strikingly feminine vocal harmonies. Highlights are ‘Like A Dog’, which begins proceedings with heartfelt confessions and rising, spine-tingling vocals, and ‘The Wine Song’, which infuses a country-rich sound with ticking banjo and impassioned, R&B spun vocals. Squid Hell Sessions is beautifully melodramatic, a country-folk delight that moves between tragedy, irony and wryness with graceful, genuine magic.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 08/06/09; www.myspace.com/annielynch

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