Anne Janelle is certainly a woman of many tastes. I found her latest offering to be an album of twists and turns -mostly between classical and roots influences. The second track 'Will You' stands out for its incorrigible beat and irresistible fiddle playing. Janelle's lyric alternates between emphasis on the first and then fourth beat in the verses, making it impossible to listen passively. 'Butterfly' is effectively simple in comparison. The hauntingly vacant piano chords and sparse ukulele melody and chords create space for a warm vocal whilst in the chorus sections the honesty of Janelle's voice drifts over indulgent strings, the violin parts descending in contrary motion to the rising lilt of the cello.
For me, 'Triangle of Light' steals the show with its childish sense of joy and its world influences are reminiscent of Paul Simon's Graceland grooves complete with hand claps and a rhythmic bass line over which a well placed chromatic saxophone weaves around the beat and vocal riffs.
Janelle's musicality is evident through carefully placed instrumentation. For example in 'Feeling Beautiful' piano sits high above a vocal line, which alternates with gritty fiddle playing in the instrumental sections. The guitar fills breaks between the vocal and fiddle with lyrical phrases as well as filling the lower space in the sound spectrum as part of a traditional rhythm section alongside customary double bass and percussion to ensure the piece moves along.
What I enjoyed most about the album were the less formulaic tracks. 'I Didn't Want to Break It' ignores the more traditional chorus and verse format being guided by the free vocals -the refrain spans eight lines whilst the verses are only four. By playing with form, Janelle demonstrates her classical music training and assumes control of her creations and their impact. For me, this is something which distinguishes an artist from a singer.
Janelle once again plays with the form and shows her classical music routes by using short instrumental interludes to divide the album into three movements. Interlude I is particularly enjoyable -a lush chamber piece which cleanses the palette it achieves a subtle complexity within its mere fifty four seconds using a range of textures and a sumptuous chord progression.
The cello is Janelle's main instrument and it comes to the fore in a number of tracks including 'Time to Go' which echoes the regretful sentiment of the lyric. Through the line "We started dreaming young to pass the time away" Janelle avoids cliché with a statement that is nonetheless relatable. In 'Butterfly' it is the emotive cello part which provides the heartbeat of the track, contrasted by the more transient chords of the ukulele, the main instrument of producer and main accompanist (and Janelle's husband) James Hill.
I personally felt that the first track undersold the depth of musicianship I found within the rest of the album. Perhaps the decision to begin with 'The End of the World' was taken in order to interest a broader number of people in an otherwise diverse and interesting album. For my taste, 'The Moth and the Light' came close to cliché, its subject matter rescued in part by the timbre of an electric guitar heard earlier on the track 'Knocking at My Door'.
Throughout the album there are hints of blues and jazz in delivery and style. The electronic production on 'Keeper of My Garden' seemed a little incongruous to my ears, although to others this may seem in keeping with the spoken word element introduced later in the piece and it is certainly in keeping with Janelle's intent to experiment with traditional song form and to overcome the strictures of genre.
If I were to describe the unique qualities of Janelle's style it is the driving rhythms, expressed through the vocals as well as through percussion and other instrumental parts, her wandering vocals and the smooth blend of string accompaniments which captured my attention. At times I found it difficult to place the originality of the music alongside the obvious themes of love and loss Janelle deals with but perhaps this is the key to the album's success: Janelle showcases her individuality as an artist by experimenting with form and by straddling genres and this uniqueness stands out by contrast with the more generic aspects which many be expected of a singer-songwriter.
|Apple Of My Eye: The Beast Below||AJ Hobbs: Too Much Is Never Enough|
The Fatea Showcase Sessions are a series of downloads featuring acts that we've really enjoyed and think that more people should get the chance to hear.
Click Here to get the latest session