Anne Garner – Be Life

Anne Garner - Be Life

Anne Garner – Be Life

Anne Garner’s new album Be Life announces itself, on opening song “Your Name” with all the grace and emotional depth of a Schubert Lieder. An elegantly understated, electronically treated, piano motif spartanly but superbly supports the vocal coils of what appears to be as much a meditation as a song. Possessing a faint hint of This Mortal Coil at their most yearning, I nevertheless find myself likening Garner’s vocals to that of a young Alison Goldfrapp, had she been in possession of a sizeable folk record collection and a big bottle of Valium. No bad thing.

The follow-up to 2011’s beguiling Trusting A Twirled World this album is very much about continuity and this beginning assuredly sets the stage for what is to follow. Slow-to-mid-tempo is consistently adhered to and the musical pallet is kept tidy and focused. Instrumentally the work contains a remarkable cumulative power that is in fact built upon waves of gentleness, somewhat reminiscent of Talk Talk at their most chilled out. A closer comparison still might be Bill Fay’s Tomorrow, Tomorrow And Tomorrow period, a kind of steady-state, shimmering, universe of piano and soft electronic washes providing the perfect cushion for Anne’s heartfelt, intimate, lyrical caresses.

Indeed, if there’s a little touch of genius in Be Life it also holds comparison to that of Fay’s, as Garner shares his haiku-like poetic awareness that to say exactly enough, in a song, is to say everything needed. This beautiful economy of lyricism manifests itself in the use of a bare average eight to ten lines per song; words always to the purpose and to the heart (no tedious ‘now the fifth verse where I tell you the same stuff that I did in the first verse and just as badly’ here!). This ability to adeptly summarise complex emotional states is one that Garner shares with the erudite likes of Serafina Steer, the principle difference being that on Be Life the emotional “Life” of the title is never over intellectualised thus rendering it more profoundly and openly on display. Indeed, as can be seen from the lines “No room for love, it might not last, if all that’s felt is torn apart, then who will keep your wounded heart in theirs?’’ (“All That’s Left”) Garner owns the ability to utilise a veritable St. Sebastien of piercing imagery.

There is the odd occasion where (to my taste) the album becomes unnecessarily reverb swamped; possibly signifying that Garner is a true child of the ’80s. But this is more likely to be welcomed by others of the same persuasion than not. It’s also a mildly confusing call (although an impressively assured one) that a recognised flautist of Garner’s calibre and sensitivity should decide not to deploy that instrument on this album at all. Still, these are very minor quibbles. This is the work of a songwriter hitting her straps, emoting without showboating, bringing considerable musical talent and personal integrity to your door. Whether you find Be Life on a long summer evening or a dark winter afternoon, it will speak to you.

Slowcraft Records