Anomie Belle - Crush Album Review
Composer, producer, arranger, programmer and multi-instrumentalist Anomie Belle, better known to her Ma & Pa as Toby Campbell, is a bundle of talent that is set to realise its full potential. Having travelled the world on her musical journey of discovery; writing, producing and playing, largely for the greater benefit of others, she returned to her American homeland. Not entirely enamoured with the State Of The Nation and it's ever growing consumerist culture she set about putting her point across (directly, but eloquently, aired here with 'on TV') and decided the time was right to showcase her rather individual qualities.
Anomie Belle (Translated as Beautiful Isolation apparently) released her debut solo album, 'Sleeping Patterns' back in 2008. Critics and programming soundtrackers immediately took notice and Anomie's unique vocal styling's and electronic infused music have been heard on some unlikely platforms for an activist against the consumerist society which they sometimes perpetuate. Putting that tricky conundrum aside, what matters is that her music is good enough. It's notable for its individuality, the structure of the compositions and the skilful arrangements in which Anomie's voice is allowed to shine.
'Crush', Anomie's Sophomore album, is a more accomplished follow on to its predecessor. She's still the main element tying everything together, pulling nearly all the strings and handling every tune with the care of someone who's solely responsible for their creation. She may still derive some inspiration and influence from the likes of Beck and Radiohead but her electro leanings are brought to the fore and her vocal style is somewhere, very pleasantly situated, between Bjork and Julia Stone. Crush is also where Anomie Belle graduates into musical maturity as a refined and challenging contemporary artist.
The 12 tracks that make up Crush begin with 'Electric Lullaby'. A deep bass and off set percussion caress the sensual tones of Anomie's vocals. The eerie beginnings give way to a fuller sound as the layers build and the song breaks into waves of sonic delight. 'Inky Drips', the first single taken from the album, changes the mood and character of the set altogether. The beats are up and mood is more mischievous, the voice is altered as it becomes more playful giving the song more immediacy and commerciality. The next track lifted from Crush is the most instantly accessible. 'Machine', featuring Mr Lif on vocals, pairs all its elements seamlessly. The rumbling bass line and deep voice of Lif work as a mirror opposite to Anomies angular, razor sharp, slightly warped (Just the right side of deranged) but compelling lead.
The title track shows why she's becoming somewhat of a cinematic/televisual favourite as far as producers are concerned. You can hear this ('Crush') playing out to the final credits of any angsty, left field, edgy drama you care to imagine. Mixing up the jagged guitar and over layerd ghostly atmospherics of Anomies voice creates a very effective sound, rich in mood and almost predisposed towards a celluloid partnership. However, the best track on the album is what follows. Not as immediate maybe but 'Mosquito In The Closet' shows all of Anomies considerable talents in one great song. Adding a sumptuous string section to accompany the debauched tale works wonders. From the rewound start and the unease of the slowly building instrumentation through to the delicacy of the initial strings and the ultimate flourish the song develops and blossoms into a beautiful track.
Anomie duets with Jon Auer (The Posies) in a more symbiotic way on the gentle 'Picture Perfect' as well as with previous collaborative partner Anna Lynne Williams on the brooding, troubled and tortured tale, 'Privilege'. The electro beats and occasional guitar solo play second fiddle to a vocal pairing devoid of distortion or manipulation. The close out tracks of 'Lavender' and 'Phantom' go for a more conventional composition and ask for far less vocal acrobatics from Ms Belle. By now it's time to chill out and relax. The more challenging stuff maybe at the beginning but the stripped back finale is worth sticking around for.
The Trip-Hop sprinkled scores provide an interesting back drop to Anomies imaginative vocals throughout the album. Her ability to capture or evoke a mood are both clever and intuitive. The tracks are clearly framed and arranged in such a way to make their inclusion in any multi-media platform all the more easy. I think there is a psychological character trait (Possibly in dreams) that some people are prone to when confronting their fears in that they will be inclined to choose that of which they are afraid. In making music that is so easy to soundtrack she may have inadvertently become a marketing managers idea of heaven, surely not the intention of a activist against consumerism. In being challenging but not too obscure and in providing just the right degree of left-field cool Anomie Belle may have to confront her demons before too long.
"...each have so much to prove, by the models of our cars and the professions we pursue, on the clothes that we wear, on the money we make, on the things that we can buy and on the value of our real estate." No one said life was meant to be easy.