Anna Calvi has certainly always ticked all the right boxes. Debbie Harry bone structure, Ahmet Ertegun‘s phone book, Sharon Van Etten‘s voice and Leonard Cohen-esque songwriting prowess. Her eponymous début a couple of years ago was quite wonderful, and One Breath feels very much like part two, as opposed to any significant step outside the box. Well, at least it’s not dubstep..
Mentor Brian Eno lingers like Bela Lugosi behind the altar of the deepest-Sussex church the album sounds like it was again recorded in. Bowie is also present in terms of depth of expression and integrity, his Low being if not significantly a musical, then definitely a style counterpoint. PJ Harvey is a name often bandied about regarding Calvi, but Calvi is far more baroque frankly – though the gritty ‘Love Of My Life’ here does resonate with Polly’s gnarlier moments.
Calvi’s ghostly moans and wails flail around One Breath like banshees and sirens, the sturm und drang guitar and massively reverberated drums hanging themselves like sheets over the songs, occasionally shocking with a detonated blast of distorted ennui anaesthetic. From time to time, the album yanks you out of your French gothic reverie straight into the Bronx, sonically deployed Hitchcock-style to ensure maximum jar.
So far, so Ingrid Bergmann; at it’s most windswept on other-worldly, ethereal ‘The Bridge’. ‘Carry Me Over’ though is as portentous as its title, a nod to the future no less. It’s a colourful slide towards some kind of glacial psyche, strings rising over mountaintops, jaunty rhythms, and a genuine sense of doors about to be opened. ‘One Breath’ is no giant leap, but with the solidity of Anna Calvi’s talent and vision, it didn’t need to be. It’s a solid ball in the cannon, with one kohl’ed eye on even more of a decidedly strange future.