# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Anna Kashfi - Survival

  by John Clarkson

published: 8 / 1 / 2010

Anna Kashfi - Survival
Label: Little Red Rabbit Records
Format: CD


Forceful latest album from always inventive Manchester-based band Anna Kashfi, who with an increasing emphasis of humour continue to expand with each new recording

Anna Kashfi have always had an unique ability to shape shift both musically and lyrically seemingly at whim. In their singer, Sian Webley, they have a vocalist of rare chameleonic quality. Over the course of the Mancurian act’s last three albums, ‘Philokalia’ (2002), ‘Palisade’ (2005) and ‘Procurement’ (2008), Webley has metamorphosed from persona to persona – abused lover, atoning adulteress, uncaring heartbreaker and in a stormy cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ ‘The Mercy Seat’ a terrified soon-to-be executed prisoner on her last night in Death Row - always apparently effortlessly. She is matched in this by her co-songwriter and producer, James Youngjohns, a multi-instrumentalist, who has a talent for extracting melody from whatever instrument he lays hands on. On ‘Survival’, their fourth album, Webley transforms herself through another rich variety of roles, and Youngjohns plays sixteen different instruments including acoustic, electric, tenor and pedal steel guitars, a mellotron, harmonium, piano, organ, mandolin, banjo and accordion. They are backed in this adeptly by the rest of the current line-up of Anna Kashfi which includes Sarah Kemp( violins), Peter Martin (electric guitar and bass), Michael Doward (electric and upright bass, vocals) and new member Vanessa Lewis(alto saxophone, recorder and vocals). In what is very much an ensemble piece, there are also guest appearances from Huw McPherson on drums who also plays in Anna Kashfi’s sister band Last Harbour with Kemp, Doward and Youngjohns; local Manchester musician and one half of Samson and Delilah Sam Lench on percussion and vocals, and American singer and Willard Grant Conspiracy front man, Robert Fisher. “I was born when you kissed me/I died when you left”, sighs Webley as an opening line on the first song ‘A Lonely Place’, a gently mournful and whispering ballad of crackling sound effects and simmering soft tensions. Much of the rest of the album is both similarly evocative and typically melancholic. “Life is a game that no one can win/But I’ll bring the loser’s prize and come with nothing”, she concludes on the a capella ‘Loser’s Prize’, backed on vocals by Doward, Lewis and Lench. ‘Chain of Command’ meanwhile catches the agonised solitude and loneliness of being in a relationship long deadened by over familiarity and routine, and in which one half to spark things up has started having an affair. “I must admit that I feel quite used”, spits Webley at her philandering partner against a backdrop of Youngjohns’ tingling harmonium and Sarah Kemp’s winding violin with sudden and violent relish. Youngjohns has, however, clearly wanted to see how far he can push Webley with this recording, and ‘String Loop’ finds the band experimenting with both electronic percussion and a voice distorter, a trick which Webley then repeats with the latter on ‘1936’. There has always been a sly undercurrent of humour to Webley’s work. As signified on the sleeve which despite the album’s title features a drawing by Last Harbour vocalist Kev Craig of a dodo, there is also, however, an enhanced sense of comedy on ‘Survival’. ‘Devil’s Bridge’ thrusts Youngjohns’ jangling banjo to the fore, and, the tale of how a Tuscan town tricked the devil into building a bridge for them for free, finds Webley, as the leader of the town, out witting Robert Fisher’s hapless devil, who ultimately proves to be more honest and less underhand than she is. “Is she or is she ain’t your baby?”Webley snaps at another adulterous lover on ‘Your Baby’, but its rollicking country tune, Vanessa Lewis’ warbling saxophone and her exuberant vocals are all so upbeat that it comes across as funny rather than tragic. The final track, ‘The Church on the Green’, features a plaintive acoustic guitar and with wry, but sympathetic wit captures the declining effect of religion on local community. “Plague and famine/War and death” she sings, assuming the role of the church itself. “I have seen it all/There’s nothing left/These days my job is more mundane.” ‘Survival’ is a further excellent album from an always inventive act, which continues to grow and to expand with each new recording.

Track Listing:-
1 A Lonely Place
2 Glass House
3 The Loser's Prize
4 Drinker's Song
5 Red Rag Doll
6 Devil's Bridge
7 String Loop
8 Bumblebee
9 Your Baby
10 1936
11 Chain Of Command
12 The Church On The Village Green

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