Hauntingly Brilliant Originality
Toronto native Anna Mayberry (aka Anamai) is incredibly multifarious in her artistic endeavors. As both a musician with two astoundingly dissimilar projects in the works and a classically trained contemporary dancer, her experiences have melded into an exceptional new neo-folk creation, Sallows.
Sallows, released March 10th, is a cryptic cavern of ominous tones and haunting female vocals, full of memory and sorrow. The minimalistic work almost contradicts itself with its spacious sound. Anamai combines aspects of folk, electronica, blues, and traditional music into an ambient and intriguing whole. The album centers itself mostly around Mayberry’s layered vocals and acoustic guitar, Alexandra Blumas’ backing vocals, and the electronic influence of producer David Psutka. There is a dark echo and palpable texture that is uniform throughout the album, seemingly derived from 90s shoegazer rock. This is not a surprise, as Mayberry’s other substantial project is Toronto-based sludge-punk band HSY, known for their obscure, murky sound. Mayberry and Psutka’s diversity culminates uniquely in each track.
The opening track “Lucia” is a good introduction to the rest of the album, with a slow, drudging beat and a layering of Mayberry and Blumas’ vocals. They sings sorrowfully, “…can’t you love me some other way / Oh you let me down sometimes.” Mayberry’s reflective lyricism pairs nicely with the atmospheric sound of the album. “Everyone” has hints of traditional folk, with a constant hand drum beat making up the foundation, coupled with a chanted chorus and acoustic fingerpicking.
“Mute Flames,” “Alter Coals” and “Black Crow” were featured on Anamai’s self-titled 2013 EP, but were re-recorded for the new album. “Alter Coals” is a more upbeat, indie-folk track on the album, while “Black Crow” has more of a poignant bluesy tone. These three tracks stand refined among the rest; yet align well with the entire album. Songs like “Half” and “Dirt” leave a weight in the chest with a heavy plodding in the beat and morbidity in Mayberry’s airy voice, singing: “People like us should leave us alone / We kill time, we kill time.”
The songs are a gloomy day in a dense forest, while Mayberry’s voice is a sliver of sunshine through impending rain clouds. The album takes a little time to wrap the head around, but going deeper into the abyss, one finds Anamai creates an introspective folk that holds its merit in its uniqueness. There aren’t many acts in the same ballpark as Anamai, which is a good thing. Sallows’ originality creates dissonance in today’s music and media clutter.