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Anna Kashfi - Philokalia

  by John Clarkson

published: 7 / 7 / 2002

Anna Kashfi - Philokalia
Label: Emmas House
Format: 10"


Six track mini album from Mancurian alternative country duo, limited to 200 copies and on 10' white vinyl, 'with a stark, but symphonic beauty and a fragile, evocative power'.

One has to only look at the track listings on the three CDs to date in Uncut Magazine's 'Sounds of the New West' series, or at any Bloodshot or Loose Recordings compilation to realise how much the alternative country movement has become dominated by the American market in recent years. Anna Kashfi are, however, proof that the British part of the genre is alive and well. The act, a two piece outfit from Manchester, which consists of Sian Webley on vocals and James Youngjohns on instrumentation, have been playing gigs together in and around their native city for a number of years, and have self-released on their own Magic Jukebox label two previous CD EPs 'Three Wise Men' (2000) and 'About a Boy' (2001). Their latest offering, a six track mini album, 'Philokalia' has been released in 10" white vinyl on the local vinyl only label, Emma's House, in an edition of just 200 copies, and comprises of reworkings of the title track plus another song, 'Sunburn', from 'Three Wise Men', and also four new songs. Youngjohns has produced the album himself, and sometimes employing the talents of one or more session musicians, but more often than not taking up the challenge himself, he, toys around and experiments with an impressive range of instrumentation including acoustic and electric guitars, a pedal steel, the piano, chimes, a harmonica,a Hammond organ, a cuatro and a tabla. He is an elegant and a subtle soundsmith, injecting the six songs with a stark, but symphonic beauty and a fragile, evocative power. Webley is the perfect counterpart, her world worn, but aerobic voice running an equally rich range of emotions and personas from that of childlike innocent to cynical woman of the world, heartbroken girlfriend to vengeful lover. The minimalistic opening number 'Rain Keeps Falling'is set against the soft,bleak backdrop of a tinkling piano and a gently pattering acoustic guitar and finds a vulnerable and bruised Webley out in the rain and driving alone in her car, away from a past which has gone badly wrong, into a future which looks no better. The enigmatic 'Three Wise Men', however, features a buzzing pedal steel guitar and an accordion, and has the singer turning her weary wrath on someone who has unwisely-and it seems rather unnecessarily- tried to rescue her. "Move on now, /there's nothing to see" she sings dismissively, swatting him away with a scornful, sugarsweet acidity. "Noone's as strong as me". The mournful 'Used Up' meanwhile captures the agony of a relationship that has turned publicly sour and humiliating, using a Spanish guitar and a thrusting, drawling harmonica, while the six and half minute 'Sunburn' is a chilling tale of revenge and love that has gone dramatically wrong. "Better not go to sleep/Won't bring you the rest you need/ Better stay awake/and keep awake to watch over me" Webley croons sinisterly at her drowsing lover, against the eerie background of a singular chipped guitar note from which all the other instruments-piano, harmonium, tabla, pedal steel, analogue synth and chimes- converge and then die away. Complex but also strikingly simple,'Philokelia' is thick with rich atmosphere and both delicate and powerful. Eloquent but sad, it is proof that there is light even at the end of the darkest day.

Track Listing:-
1 Rain Keeps Falling
2 Farewell Song
3 Three Wise Men
4 Used Up
5 Sunburn
6 Day His Star Dies

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