Saturday, 19 July 2014

ANJA MCCLOSKEY

CD Review

Quincy Who Waits

The fairground circus is in town and with it comes everything you associate with the sub culture which has fascinated and terrorised generations who have flocked to it, but didn't want to be there when the all the lights were turned off.

Anja McCloskey
The ringmistress this time is Anja McCloskey with her eclectic and enigmatic sounds and songs which make you think, make you shudder, make you smile, make you worried but most of all make you want to listen again.
Essentially an accordion player, the German-born singer/songwriter is so much more. She has at least one foot in the performance artist camp and she has a damn good and original voice as well as being an extremely talented and different musician.
Quincy Who Waits is McCloskey's second album but shows no hint of the curse which is supposed to be upon such efforts.
The gentle opening of Celluloid Glimmers has that roll up, roll up feel to it with McCloskey's clear tones coming in to set out the stall of the delights which await inside with the other tracks.
Suit Yourself opens with a heartbeat sound produced by McCloskey with her bellows before the ballad is filled out with many other strands including the fiddle and the almost Hawaiian-like sound of guitar in the background.
Too Many Words, which will be the first single release from the album, has a hypnotic feel to it with its constant repetition and the wailing in the background but it does show how diverse McCloskey's skill and talent as a singer/songwriter is.
Accordion player McCloskey
Produced in England and Germany and mostly inspired by her time touring in the States, every track is different and McCloskey's voice has a light tone but there is always that brooding feel of something darker or mysterious which you can never quite put your ear to.
Henry Lives feels like a light hearted song but like most of McCloskey's work there is always something not quite gelled, there is always an eccentric twist which seems to fit in perfectly but never lets you feel totally comfortable; a little like the build up for the horror attack in a film, you know can feel it coming but you never know what or when yet most of the enjoyment is in the anticipation.
Using her accordion very gently, almost imperceptibly for Red it has a church service feel to it, not quite melancholic but certainly sombre.
Here McCloskey really gets to show off her voice and while she isn't the most powerful of singers her words are clear, precise and have a burlesque quality which is reminiscent of smoky London clubs and bars of the 1940 and 50s.
Insane also has a sort of retro strand among the eclectic mix of sounds on this track, with the Parisian feel of the accordion; the 60s sounding electric guitar and the high whine of the gypsy-style fiddle. All the strands are fused together for an uncomfortable whole which feel as if they have been deliberately kept separate to never let you quite get a handle on the tune.
The fastest track on the album is Why Tea which has that kind of chase sounding beat from a silent movie and again McCloskey's accordion playing is a little like the blues strings with just that little nudge on to the bent note so you always know it's there. It creates an urgency in the execution almost like it trying to out-race something.
The Calm Feat somehow reminds of the space age music of the 50 and 60s where the use of electronics was creeping into the pop sound. Yet at the same time it also has the feel of a homage to famous anthems such as the Age of Aquarius. McCloskey's strong voice carries the tune along with the help of Campbell Austin.
The title track which, to give its full title, is Quincy Who Waits in the Daffodils again has that theatrical production feel to it.
The song is about a memorial bridge in Des Moines, full of plaques with messages for loved ones. ‘One was dedicated “For Quincy Who Waits in the Daffodils”. Like most of the tracks it again has those individual strands weaving in and out of each other yet never quite being allowed to mesh together.
The new album Quincy Who Waits
With the gentle breathing of her accordion McCloskey creates an almost spiritual feel to Come Tell Me. Her voice is emotive with a subtle hint of melancholy, you can almost see her dressed almost entirely in black, bent over the grave of a lover as she sings the words with real feeling and the fiddle accompaniment adding to the sombre essence of the moment.
The most indulgent and luxurious track on the album is Zoom Permanent, which she recorded with Wolverhampton's Dan Whitehouse. McCloskey's voice is rich and sumptuous and dances along perfectly to the jinking sound of her bellows. This gives way to an understated insert from the fiddle before simply bowing out.
The Boy Is Lost, opens almost like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and is a wonderfully soft lullaby-type song which, with the fiddle, has that classical feel to it but is never quite allowed to get both musical feet fully in the camp. It is the type of song which will evoke emotions as wide and varied as the people who will listen to the track.
McCloskey's gentle voice also gives it an ethereal quality which makes you want to relax into the tune but keep one eye open just in case.
There are plenty of traditional tunes from all over the world which lend themselves beautifully to the sound of the accordion but McCloskey has taken a different route and given her bellows a different voice with which to sing and if you like your folk music with a definite twist then you need to add McCloskey to your collection.

Quincy Who Waits is out July 21 on Sotones Records.