I have been following the music of Anneli Marian Drecker since the 1980s, when she was the lead singer of the synth-pop band Bel Canto. The first three Bel Canto albums melded fairytale-themed lyrics, neoclassical and world music (mostly Middle-Eastern) influences to electronic music, over which Drecker’s dramatic coloratura swooped and fluttered. (Imagine a cross between the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and Depeche Mode). Later Bel Canto albums drifted to a more 90s-era electronica sound, and Dreckers previous two solo albums were pretty much straight-forward pop.
Her new self-produced album,Rocks & Straws, is a triumphant return to her art-pop roots. From the press release:
Rocks & Straws is a homecoming album, an ode to her native town and region. The songs, all composed by Anneli, are based on lyrics by cult poet Arvid Hanssen and translated to English by artist and writer Roy-Frode Løvland. Hanssen´s poems are strongly influenced by the mysterious and powerful nature of this arctic region, like the writings of Knut Hamsun, born only a few miles from Hanssen´s birthplace.
Drecker’s voice is deepened to a lovely lyric alto, but she can still reach stunning soprano heights. The melodies she composed have actual hooks—this is accessible art pop. The album is warm, orchestral, and there is a jazzy noir vibe to some of the songs. Drecker’s piano playing is impressively delicate, like the faintest webbing of frost. Rocks & Straws belongs somewhere between the ethereality of Bjork’s Vespertine and Kate Bush’s whimsical 50 Words For Snow.
Last night I saw Swedish composer and multi-instrumentalist Anna Von Hausswolff in concert at the Atlas Theater in Washington, DC. She mostly accompanied herself on the organ, and along with her three-piece band (guitar, drums and synthesizer) crafted complex post rock soundscapes that drew from folk, liturgical and progressive metal musics. At times, it sounded like Nico fronting Sigur Ros. But the Nico comparison only counts for Hausswolff’s use of the organ (Nico played the harmonium). Hausswolff’s voice has more range; she can sing operatically or wail like a post-punk banshee, sometimes in the same song. The setlist included most of her album Ceremony; at least two of the songs were dense, funereal instrumentals. Most of the time, Hausswolff sat behind her organ and head-thrashed along to the music, an arresting visual, given her extremely long blonde hair. She stood up on two songs, respectively playing the acoustic guitar and tambourine. With her all black velvet dress and long hair, she looked like Stevie Nicks circa 1976. If you like gothic/experimental/ethereal music, be sure to check her out. Recommend for fans of Nico,Dead Can Dance, and Sigur Ros.
The cover of the new Glasser release, Interiors, shows frontwoman/conceptualist Cameron Meslrow dancing in a reflective sea of liquid metal. She appears to be molding it into a shape, even as she is being distorted. It’s an appropriate image for the music within. The music is meticulously crafted on computers, full of sound effects that beep, whir, burble, and whoosh; it embraces its artificiality. Meslrow sings the body electric over these dynamic mechanical compositions with a high, girlish voice that somehow manages to be detached and vulnerable at the same time. Song titles center around processes or shapes: “Dissect,” “Divide,” “Window,” “Forge,” “Landscape.” It sounds like a catalog for a minimalist art installation. The lyrics deal with abstract concepts, like isolation and the act of creating art. While there is a Laurie Anderson aspect to Meslrow’s delivery (the icy detachment) her melodies and the rhythms are catchy. Interiors bridges the gulf between high concept art and ear candy. Glasser makes art pop that’s actually fun.