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Anni Rossi - Rockwell

  by Lisa Torem

published: 26 / 3 / 2009

Anni Rossi - Rockwell
Label: 4AD
Format: CD


Promising, but sometimes atonal debut album, recorded in one day, from 23 year old American singer-songwriter and viola player, Anni Rossi

23 old Anni Rossi was raised in Minnesota, classically-trained in violin and piano at an early age and studied performance and composition in L.A. for several years before heading to Illinois to record the ten tracks of 'Rockwell'in one day. Rossi has toured throughout Europe and the U.S performing solo, as a member of Carla Bozulich’s band and with the Tings Tings and Electrelane. Rossi’s 10 track debut CD is an experience. Vocally lying somewhere between Jaymay, Mirah and Regina Spektor - specifically in 'Ne Me Quitte Pas' - lyrically mimicking the confessional style of Fiona Apple and instrumentally engaging in the plucking of the viola – her major source of accompaniment here – in a fashion that recalls the violin strains of Andrew Bird. Apart from these comparisons, Rossi, however, beats to her own off--kilter drum. She uses the viola in a number of unconventional ways throughout.Devin Maxwell, a NYC based composer and 'Rockwell' percussionist who has also accompanied Bat For Lashes, was enlisted to capture the percussive nature of the viola. Perhaps, that is why in 'Ecology' enough texture is mustered up to wainscot the structure while adding a funky electronica groove. Also, her voice finds here a safer haven, than in some of the other tracks. In 'Air Is Nothing' the viola finds solace in a waltz. Some tunes, like 'Las Vegas', tend to be narratively scattered. There’s a story here about a boxer, but is the geography incidental to the story? 'Living in Danger' has the most spine and an engaging and believable hook: “I see lies in the eyes of a stranger, you’ll be living in danger.” and was originally recorded by Ace of Base. Here the viola is righteously up-front where it belongs and Rossi hugs the lyrics. Some California dreaming ensues with the line: “The west coast is a couple days away now. I can feel it.” This 'West Coast' road trip evokes tension primarily because of the heightening drum and string background. In the song 'Machine' there is a calypso feel with the apocalyptic message: “maybe we will starve and dive away from here, swinging crazily like a stock exchange.” I’m not always sure that Rossi’s figurative speech gets the point across, but she’s uniquely expressive and remains refreshingly underproduced throughout 'Rockwell'. Clearly, Rossi’s dissasociative lyrics and natural voice, which spews atonal melodies atop dissonant strings, move her ahead of her time in the way Stravinski, Cage or Yoko Ono have been described , but, like more established artists, she may need to do some more “covers” such as the one already on 'Rockwell' - 'Living In Danger' - until her craft catches up with her imagination. That said, Rossi just may be a genre-expanding troubadour harbouring a sultry chanteuse. Hopefully, her next release will allow her to further spread her edgy wings and thrust her imagination into full-tilt.

Track Listing:-
1 Machine
2 Ecology
3 Las Vegas
4 The West Coast
5 Deer Hunting Camp 17
6 Living In Danger
7 Venice
8 Glaciers
9 Wheelpusher
10 Air Is Nothing

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