Anne Garner – Be Life (Slowcraft Records/Unperceived Records, 2015)

Anne Garner - Be Life (Cover)

Life and death are sensitive subjects, so it’s only right that when they’re approached musically that level of thoughtfulness and consideration in their constructions should be maintained; Be Life may not look like a record that on the surface references the release of death or talks about the nature of life after death, but surprisingly Anne Garner has managed to work these delicate topics into this humble little record, and what’s more she’s done it with the utmost grace. Comprised of tiny piano tinklings, smeared strings and flutes it floats along unobtrusively, treading so lightly that it’s all we can do as listeners to strain our ears and unravel its soft messages.

The opener “Your Name” quickly establishes the soundscape, conflating sensual and delicate vocals and instrumentation together in a slowly rising build of tentative piano strokes and fluffy processings; it’s sparsely populated but that’s how Anne seems to like it, and even with its minimalism there’s still an ambiguity to the sound, a possible romantic avenue for example, that surrounds the piece and leaves us searching for more. “All That’s Left” is somewhat more diffuse, its coolly sung vocals suspended in a thick layer of dreamy and hopeful reverb, the piano lost somewhere in its deep processings as Anne talks of heartbreak and loss, of love holding fast through harsh times. We continue to fall into the throes of diffuse sound in the gorgeously effortless “Soft Eyes” as well with its warm yet wavering embrace, hesitant piano creeping softly amidst the soft and lost whisperings in our ear, urging this shapeless yet cosy mass along.

Separating the two halves of the album is the surprisingly poppy yet still mysterious “Wednesday’s Child”; for a brief moment we’re allowed back to experience some moment of weakness and childlike innocence in more percussive and synth driven music, the only track here with a real sense of youthful brightness and untainted hopefulness: “why the child in me can never grow old” she sings, holding onto some shining vestige of youth. The latter half to follow is rather more affecting though, and although it shares all the same sonic characteristics as the first it feels darker and heavier, turning towards resignation and acceptance. “Wherever You Go” and Leave Your Bed” are a haunting couplet to kick this off: the former is a return to the ethereal but with a genteel and careful attitude as though supporting its fragile ward, whispering soft words of reassurance:

“I am right here

Close your eyes dear

No you wont fall down”.

However,”Leave Your Bed” is a dry, dusty and flatly insistent piece that oversees an attempt at distancing itself from these hard emotional decisions, telling our ward to “float away” and “flee the pain”; although I suppose it could be interpreted as a metaphor for sleep there’s just something in the dim drones and pained vocals that lends a darker feeling to this, the freedom of death. The final two pieces cap the album as an entity, with “Come In” losing itself in melted strings and bleary flute movements, weightless and directionless as it spirals into the pains of loss, whilst closer “Be Life” brings it home in a quick rush of textural highs, a shimmering mirage of agglutinated sound that peaks in a rumble of electronic processings before falling into a silent darkness for its final minute.

I like that there’s a light air to proceedings here because it gives the album such a multi-dimensional demeanour open to various interpretations and thoughts; reading the lyric sheet for me really helped cement some of my own personal feelings in regards to its thematic revolution around life and death but I’m sure others will read them in a more wistful and romantic sense, like lovers parted. Regardless of interpretation it’s a strong record, filled with cosy and ambiguous introspections from start to finish; extremely easy to get caught up within given how lighthearted it comes off as.

Available 19th June.