London based duo release haunting debut album
Taking your name from an Edgar Allen Poe poem builds expectation. It conjures up a romantic impression of a lonely man lamenting the death of beautiful women. It brings to mind misty benches by rivers or the sea. A lingering melancholy, which can never be removed. And a specific feeling that makes you cold at the bone, when you think of it.
Luckily Annabel (lee)’s debut album, By the Sea… and Other Solitary Places, does all of this and more. Annabel’s vocals are ethereal, but grounded in emotion and Richard E’s music features elements of impressionist classical composers, late night Parisian jazz clubs and chill out trip hop soundscapes. Opening track Breathe Us tells you everything you need to know about the album. Opening with a simple recurring loop, that after a few cycles is as impenetrable as fog, but Annabel’s voice cuts through it like shapes and shadows in the distance. Breathe Us seems to say “we’re going to take you on a strange and slightly macabre journey. It won’t get bumpy, but don’t lose sight of us, or you’ll be lost in the gloaming forever”. I Will Lead Us has a simple message “I will lead us”, through folktronic glitch guitars and subtle strings the tension is built and reduced. Lyrically it’s reminiscent to a mantra or lullaby. Musically Believe sounds like an updated version of Bille Holiday’s Gloomy Sunday. Annabel’s vocals literally purr with regret and remorse. Closing track Suki Desu sums the whole things perfectly with its dreamlike strings and beguiling vocals.
The only downside with the album is that the texture ad tone of the tracks doesn’t vary much and if you aren’t concentrating it all can merge into one. Also at times, due to Annabel’s jazz vocals some of the lyrics are undecipherable on a first listen. Having said that it’s perfect for those moment when you need a distraction in the background, or are in quite meditation at work.
Yet again the partnership of Ninja Tune and If Music has released another sublime album. Originally a Record Store Day release it has now been given a proper release and offered to the masses. While this album will probably not set the charts alight, it does contain some of the most honest lyrics and inventive production released this year. Miss this at your peril!