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Anita Lipnicka - Hard Land of Wonder

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 23 / 3 / 2011

Anita Lipnicka - Hard Land of Wonder
Label: EMI
Format: CD


Atmospheric and wintry latest album from exceptional-voiced Polish born, but now English-based singer-songwriter Anita Lipnicka, who has worked in the past with the Walkabouts' Chris Eckman

Anita Lipnicka has been making albums for some seventeen years now but ‘Hard Land Of Wonder’ is her solo debut in the UK. Anita’s recording career started with the band Varius Manx in her native Poland; after two albums with the band she released three solo albums there before recording a further handful of albums with partner John Porter. None other than Chris Eckman of the Walkabouts produced two of those albums and Anita also sang a duet with Eckman on his ‘The Last Side of the Mountain’ album which gives the uninitiated a slight pointer as to how the music of Anita Lipnicka sounds occasionally. It’s no surprise to read that Anita started recording this collection of songs in England during a particularly cold and snowy winter. ‘Hard Land of Wonder’ is a collection of atmospheric, moving songs which conjure up many images; it’s a winter album for sure, a set of songs where the pedal steel Melvin Duffy of adds an unusual, almost chilling texture, to many of these tunes. Songs such as ‘You Change Me’ are sparse tracks with just drums, double bass courtesy of Ali Friend (Beth Orton), electric guitar and Anita’s piano but the sounds that Duffy gets from his pedal steel add eeriness and flesh out the songs in an unusual and appealing way which forces you to return to the songs time and time again. Every one of these songs, which are all written by Anita, is well constructed, strong on melody and, while the lyrics can be a little oblique at times, they are always woth listening to and on songs like ‘Noisy Head’ which has one of Anita’s prettiest melodies coupled with some of her most thought-provoking lyrics they capture your imagination so strongly it takes a few plays before the beauty of Anita’s vocals make their mark. Anita’s vocals are strong throughout the album; pleasant and certainly not quirky in any way at all, she sounds like a competent singer of the kind we hear everyday. But the background vocals on ‘Noisy Head’, which according to the notes are also handled by Anita, and the wordless vocals on this particular song show just what a talented singer and conveyer of sounds Anita is. That you can get more than halfway through an album and be so mesmerised by all that is going on in the songs musically and lyrically before realising that the singer is actually pretty exceptional too says something about the quality of not only Anita’s composing skills but of the brilliance of the musicians involved in these recordings. ‘Hard Land of Wonder’ starts strongly with ‘Car Door’ where cello, violin and viola suggest that we are in for not only an interesting journey, but one where the mystery ride was going to throw in a few unexpected and maybe unsettling twists and turns along the way. The trip through ‘Hard Land of Wonder’ delivers exactly that, but after such a captivating start thoughts emerge that there must be a few lapses in the quality of the songs as the journey progresses. That never happens though. The second song, ‘Lovely Fake’, begins with just piano and Anita singing “What I keep in my night table drawer you wouldn’t want to know/And you wouldn’t want to see where I go in my dreams…if I sleep at all” before Duffy’s pedal steel ups the eeriness quota a hundred fold. Usually when an artist is unknown to us but has released a number of albums before we are introduced to their music the most natural thing to do is want to check out their earlier work. But the collection of songs on ‘Hard Land of Wonder’ is such a perfect set of songs that flow so well from one song to the next that strangely I don’t want to hear any of Anita’s previous work. Not just yet anyway. There is so much still to discover in these songs ; many times I haven’t been able to get to the end of the album before hitting the repeat button just to hear the same sounds I’d heard just 15 minutes ago again and again. ‘Hard Land of Wonder’ is an album of wonderfully written, played and produced songs that will never age sung by an exceptionally talented singer. It took some time for me to get there but for proof of just how remarkable Anita’s vocals are listen to the closing song, ‘The Trail’ and her final lines. If that voice doesn’t move you then nothing will.

Track Listing:-
1 Car Door
2 Lovely Fake
3 Hungry Feast Of Love
4 Halfway Through
5 The Chase
6 You Change Me
7 Glass Of Water
8 Noisy Head
9 Hard Land Of Wonder
10 Sailor's Song
11 The Trial

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