Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Anne Bacheley – ‘Headquarters’

I know I wrote about her Christmas single, but I’m going to write about her album too. And why apologise? If there’s not enough about music on this blog, it’s because not enough of what I hear is as disarming and lovable as the merest fraction of your average Anne Bacheley release. Qualities picked up on at the time of her first album by Stephen Pastel and Alistair Fitchett – and how often do they chance upon the same star in the firmament? Alistair got a great release for his Unpop label with ‘Mixtape Babies’, but it was the follow-up, the Station Life EP which really got me hooked. To the trim sound, the arrangements which should have been sparse but which were so coloured in with so few strokes of the guitar. To the voice which should have been thin but which was so sure that its frailties became strengths. It was tantalising to have such a leap from LP to EP, and it was pretty obvious that her next step would be very special.

Headquarters doesn’t disappoint. Thrillingly, it is more pop than ‘Station Life’, and Anne has developed a great line in those little melodic tics which catapult a song sky high in an unexpected moment (the ‘Who will have to give in?’ line from ‘New Home Song’; ‘Spend your days alone and locked inside’ from ‘Energy’). She’s also given us more of the minimal textures that made ‘Drive in the Dark’ so deliciously melancholic – on ‘Genius Bike’, for example, which has similarly buried lyrics, with a ‘That’s too bad / Find somebody else’ poking its head above the clean tambourine and the subdued distorted guitar (mixed low like that, it is the sound of mental confusion). ‘Miss Helen’ follows on, dropping the distortion for a toy keyboard sound and a beautifully frail melody ascending from the words ‘why don’t you leave her alone?’ Again, the construction of the song appears to mirror an emotional state – a defensiveness followed by a spiralling away into Whatever Is Next. Defiant, resigned.

As for ‘Tangram’... ‘Pull triangles from a box / Assemble them into a fox [...] /Sat on the carpet in your room / Helping you to make it through / I will be by your side / To play Tangram’. If Katrina Mitchell had written more songs when she was younger, we might have got here sooner, but at least it’s happened now. Clutch this song to your chest and never let it go.

The rest is pretty fine too. ‘New Home Song’ is the only song I have ever heard about interior design (‘I don’t mind the plastic, the metal and the glass / You’re into high ceilings, wooden floors and brass’), ‘On Returning’ a claustrophobic but fond lament for a town left years ago in which, as so often here, the lo-fi homemade-ness of the record works in its favour. The ‘bass’ on the song is, if you’ll forgive a lapse into the muso, played on a guitar’s lower strings: it crackles a bit and is mixed too high for comfort – which gives the claustrophobia a string section would struggle to achieve. To accompany a line like ‘I bumped into someone I used to know / What should I do? / Should I look away or go and say hello?’ this is perfect: it captures the rush of memories and the self-conscious uncertainty of how to react. Brogues and I had a mini email argument about this last week – he said it’d be great to see what Anne could do given a proper studio. Which it would, but these particular songs are small scale in the best sense, they capture the precarious divide between feeling up and feeling down, and I wouldn’t want them any other way.

Buy or stream Headquarters here. Or pop in to Monorail.


brogues said...

Lovely writing, as usual. Thanks for providing the little push I needed to buy 'Headquarters'! Thanks, too, for the Ray Rumours tip. I bought their split cd-r with Bare Knees when I was in Swedenland and it's got some wonderfully understated yet melodically rich songs on it. Cheers!

Chris said...

Ta very much, and welcome back from the international superstar DJ-ing!

I think the Ray Rumours tip actually originated on Anne's blog, so thank her for that as well as for the mighty 'Headquarters'. Haven't heard the Bare Knees single, but the two with Frànçois are great - his tunes as well as hers.

As for your recent Hopkirk & Lee suggestion - oh, man... It's like Jim Reid stumbled into The Clientele. Marvellous stuff.

brogues said...

Aw man ... it's great to hear that you like Hopkirk and Lee, too! Actually, Alasdair from The Clientele is a BIG fan of that cdep.

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