This album was delayed in the making due to the small matter of being dragged off to go on tour with Peter Gabriel, not an offer you can easily pass up. It might be as a result of that delay, but step change to this new record is considerable.
This is Ane Brun‘s 8th album, 3 years on from her last studio album ‘Sketches’. When Ane started out she was for some time a solo-acoustic-singer-songwriter, which makes the production and the polish on ‘It All Starts With One’ as worthy of note as a total eclipse on a sunny day. The whole affair is plush and sleek, there are huge swirling string sections, the emotional space is big and expansive. This has the confident mark of someone at the peak of their powers.
Ane’s voice is a weapon of some force – it charts territory between full quavering opera in the brassier moments, right through to quiet intimacy on ‘Never Worship’ where she trades simple words with Devendra Banhart across a gradually building drum rhythm.
The strongest song by far is opening track ‘These Days’ and this is where Ane’s vocal lines are most simply expressed, the wistfulness pulling the listener in until there are some glorious held notes reminiscent of Loreena McKennitt at her best. This song is compulsive and wonderful. In another eight album’s time, when Ane is thinking about a ‘best of’, this will be deservedly top of the list.
There is a downside though. Elsewhere, in tracks such as ‘Words’, the full string instrumentation can be distracting, the attention to detail eroding spontaneity to give it a film-score feeling. ‘Do You Remember’ is a lovely reflection on the development of a human relationship, but in the end, feels just the tiniest bit like a TV advert for shampoo. ‘One’ is a brave attempt to understand the moment of change – inspired by the Arab Spring – but is too much like Regina Spektor putting on a West End musical. By contrast, ‘The Light From One’ is simple, fragile, and a thing of real beauty.
In one of those moments of coincidence, one of my best friends got to one of Ane’s live shows a couple of days ago. Unbidden, he sent me a note to say that out of the whole night he had loved three songs but could leave the rest. That is the exact shadow of my own experience – two or three great tracks that I will keep close by for a long time; the rest a lovely enough listen but not enough to make it more.