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Annie Barbazza — Vive
(Dark Companion, 2020, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2021-01-08
I had previously encountered singer Annie Barbazza on a pair of releases by John Greaves and North Sea Radio Orchestra, and on her own album she operates in a similar stylistic area — moody, atmospheric art song. Barbazza herself handles a variety of instruments including piano, guitar, bass, autoharp, synthesizer, harmonium, and percussion, and also provides field recordings and sound design. Quite a few others contribute on individual tracks, including John Greaves, Fred Frith, Daniel Lanois, Paul Roland, and Max Marchini, who produces all but one track, which is credited to Greg Lake. Instrumentation is generally sparse, and the lack of drum kit keeps things intimate and without any hints of rock. Barbazza herself wrote all the songs barring three: “From Too Much Love of Living” by John Greaves (lyrics by poet A.C. Swinburne), “How Beautiful You Are” by John Greaves and Peter Blegvad, and “Wrote Myself a Letter” by Paul Roland. The minimal arrangements give Barbazza’s voice a chance to shine, and her singing is certainly the focus of this material. She is by turns quiet, intimate, and breathy or powerful and expressive, spitting out the words of “Lost at Sea” like an anguished soul at the brink of madness. There are elements of avant-garde that take these songs outside the ordinary but always serve to enhance the impact of the music. Annie Barbazza’s previous solo releases have been collections of other people’s songs, but with Vive she proves herself a talented songwriter in her own right.
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