ANNELI DRECKER-ROCKS AND STRAWS.
ANNELI DRECKER-ROCKS AND STRAWS.
After a ten year wait, Anneli Drecker will shortly released her long awaited, and much anticipated third solo album, Rocks and Straws. It will be released on Rune Grammofon on 17th July 2015, marks a welcome return from Anneli Drecker. Her recording career began twenty-eight years ago, with Bel Canto.
Anneli Drecker first came to prominence in 1987, when she was the lead singer of Norwegian band Bel Canto. She was only seventeen, but was determined to make a career out of music. So Anneli made the brave decision to leave behind her Arctic hometown of Tromsø. However, she wasn’t leaving alone.
Instead, Anneli Drecker made the move to Bruxelles with the other two members of Bel Canto, Geir Jenssen and Nils Johansen. Soon, Bel Canto were part of Bruxelles’ thriving and vibrant indie scene. Bel Canto stood head and shoulders above the rest. It was only a matter of time before a record company came calling.
That proved to be the case. Belgian label Crammed Discs signed Bel Canto to their roster. Soon, Bel Canto began working on their debut album, White Out Conditions. Everything was going to plan until Bel Canto discovered a choir using the same name. So, Bel Canto were forced to release their debut album as Bel Kanto. This didn’t matter.
When White Out Conditions was released in 1987 by Crammed Discs, it was to critical acclaim. Critics and cultural commentators forecast a great future for Bel Kanto. They weren’t wrong. Three years later, in 1990, and Bel Canto were about to release their sophomore album Birds Of Passage. By then, Bel Canto were back using their original name. This just happened to coincide with album that wasn’t just released to critical acclaim, but was award winning.
When Birds Of Passage was released it was to widespread critical acclaim. Reviews of Birds Of Passage hailed the album one of the indie albums of 1990. Back home in Norway, the organisers of the Spellemannprisens, which are the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award, agreed. Birds Of Passage won Bel Canto their first Spellemannprisens. For Bel Canto, Birds Of Passage was a game-changer.
Birds Passage was released internationally. Soon, Bel Canto star was in the ascendancy. However, what many critics remarked upon, was the ethereal quality of Anneli Drecker’s voice. It was almost inevitable that comparisons were drawn to the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. Both were the lead singer of successful indie bands. They both had a unique ethereal and enchanting vocal style. It would be another two years before it featured on another Bel Canto album.
It wasn’t until 1992, that Bel Canto released their third album, Shimmering, Warm and Bright was released on Crammed Discs. Just like Bel Canto’s two previous albums, it was released to critical acclaim. Superlatives were exhausted by critics who continued to champion Bel Canto. Back home in their native Norway, Bel Canto won their second Spellemannprisen with Shimmering, Warm and Bright. The critics had been right when they said Bel Canto were a group going places. That proved to be the case, in more ways than one.
After releasing a trio of albums on Crammed Discs, Bel Canto were signed by Atlantic Records. After five years and three albums, Bel Canto were leaving their indie roots behind.
Another three years passed before Bel Canto released their fourth album, Magic Box in 1995. This was Bel Canto’s major label debut. Magic Box was released on Atlantic and in America, on the Atlantic imprint Lava.
It seemed that making the move from indie to major hadn’t fazed Bel Canto. Nor did the fact that co-producing Magic Box was produced by Bel Canto were Jah Wobble, Mark Ferda, and Ulf Holand. This all-star production team were responsible for yet another critically acclaimed and award winning album.
Magic Box was released to same critical acclaim that had accompanied previous Bel Canto releases. It also won Bel Canto the third Spellemannprisens of their career. Now Bel Canto were one of the few artists or groups to have one three Spellemannprisens. How could Bel Canto surpass this?
Just two years later, in 1998, Bel Canto returned with the fifth album of their career, Rush. While it failed to win Bel Canto another Spellemannprise, Rush was hailed by some critics as a better album than Magic Box. This was fitting, because following Rush Anneli Drecker embarked upon a sabbatical from Bel Canto.
Following Rush, Anneli Drecker decided to embark upon a solo career. It saw Anneli collaborate with some high profile musicians on Tundra. This included Hans Magnus Ryan and Bent Sæther of Motorpsycho, plus Martin Horntveth and Sjur Miljeteig.
Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde produced a track. So did Röyksopp. Torbjørn Brundtland of Röyksopp played on and produced four tracks. With this glittering array of talent aiding and abetting, Anneli Drecker, Tundra, promised to be one of the most anticipated debut albums of 2000.
It was no surprise that when Anneli released debut album her debut album Tundra in March 2000, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics were won over by Tundra’s more eclectic, genre-melting sound. Elements of electronica, rock and even post rock shine through on Tundra. As debut albums go, Tundra was the perfect album to launch Anneli Drecker’s solo career. However, Anneli’s solo career was put put on hold after Tundra.
In September 2001, Röyksopp released their debut album Melody A.M. Anneli Drecker cowrote Sparks with Röyksopp, and added the vocal. Sparks played its part in the runaway success of Melody A.M. Not only was it certified platinum in Norway, but in Britain. Then later in 2001, Melody A.M. won a Spellemannprisen for the best electronic album. By then, Röyksopp’s Melody A.M. was a huge success. In the process, it introduced Anneli Drecker to a wider audience.
Having toured Melody A.M. with Röyksopp, Anneli’s thoughts turned to Bel Canto’s sixth album. Dorothy’s Victory was produced by the three members of Bel Canto, and released in February 2002. Bel Canto, it seemed could do no wrong.
When critics heard Dorothy’s Victory, it received the same glowing reviews as its predecessors. It was fitting that critical acclaim accompanied Dorothy’s Victory. This would prove to Bel Canto’s final album. Anneli never knew this, a she embarked upon the next chapters of her career.
Three years later, and Anneli Drecker released her sophomore album Frolic. It was released in April 2005, and marked a change in direction. Frolic was a much more downtempo album. This appealed to many critics, who lauded Anneli’s brave decision to reinvent herself. They wondered what direction Anneli’s third album would take?
Another ten years passed before Anneli Drecker’s thoughts turned to her third album. During that ten year period Anneli Drecker was busy. She joined A-Ha for two gruelling world tours. However, part of the time Anneli spent with Røyksopp.
Having recorded Melody A.M. with Røyksopp, Anneli Drecker joined them on several tours. A live album was released in 2006, Röyksopp’s Night Out. It featured Anneli’s vocals on What Else Is There? and Sparks, two tracks she cowrote with Anneli Drecker. Four years later, Anneli rejoined Røyksopp for their third studio album Junior, which was released in March 2009. That would be the last Røyksopp album Anneli featured on. However, she continued to tour with them and collaborate with various artists.
Throughout her career, and way back to her days with Bel Canto, many artists and DJs have collaborated with Anneli Drecker. This includes everyone from DJ Krush, Gavin Friday, and Jah Wobble, to Hector Zazou, Tim Simenon, Guy Sigsworth and Ketil Bjørnstad. Each of these artists have worked with Anneli Drecker. So have many others, including those that would go on feature on Anneli Drecker’s long awaited third album, Rocks and Straws, which will be released on Rune Grammofon on 17th July 2015.
For Rocks and Straws, Anneli Drecker penned eleven new songs. These songs are based on lyrics by cult poet Arvid Hanssen, and were translated into English by artist and writer Roy-Frode Løvland. Arvid Hanssen´s poems have been strongly influenced by the mysterious and powerful nature of this arctic region, including the works of writer of Knut Hamsun. Despite the lyrics being based on Arvid Hanssen’s lyrics, the songs on Rocks and Straws are personal to Anneli Drecker. She describes them as an “ode” to the town and region she was born and brought up. Helping Anneli Drecker, who also produced Rocks and Straws, are some of the great and good of Norwegian music.
Among the musicians to play on Rocks and Straws are a rhythm section of drummers Rune Arnesen and Erland Dahlen, bassist Ole Vegard Skauge and guitarist Eivind Aarset. They’re joined by Tromsø´s prestigious Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra. They join Anneli, who adds vocals and plays the piano and organ at the Kysten Studio and Facing North Studio, in Tromsø. The result is an acoustic album which uses recording techniques from the seventies.
Alone opens Rocks and Straws. Washes of synths replicate the sound of an Arctic wind blowing. They’re joined by slow, moody notes on an organ. They accompany Anneli Drecker’s vocal. It’s as if she’s remembering the past, and growing up Alone in Arctic wilderness. Her thoughtful, ethereal vocal is accompanied by wistful strings. Still, the Arctic wind blows. So realistic is this soundscape that you’re transported to Anneli Drecker’s hometown, as she grows up Alone.
There’s a sense of hope as Anneli plays the piano on Circulating Light. The long winter months are gone, and spring has sprung. Suddenly, her hometown comes to life. It becomes vibrant and full of life and energy. Strings sweep and almost dance with joy. By then, there’ a joyousness in Anneli’s vocal. She paints pictures with her lyrics. Scenes come to life, as swathes of strings join the rhythm section and piano in providing the backdrop to Anneli’s joyous, hopeful vocal.
Just a long guitar opens Come Summer´s Wind. It signals the introduction of Anneli’s vocal. Again, she remembers how the arrival of spring showed that summer wasn’t far away. Accompanied by lush strings, her vocal veers between dreamy and tender to ethereal and enchanting. Again, she’s transported back to her youth, as she remembers spring becoming summer and the summer wind blowing gently against her skin. Dreamily and tenderly she sings: “Come Summer´s Wind,” on this beautiful ballad.
The changing of the seasons is important to Anneli. She’s not alone. That’s always been the case for people who live in places where the weather can be extreme. For Anneli growing up, that was the case. Green Leaves In The Snow is a song about spring, and the knowledge that a long, hard winter is behind her. Again, there’s a mixture of hope and joy in her vocal. Enthusiastically, she delivers the vocal. Meanwhile, her piano and the rhythm section play leading roles in the arrangement. So do the subtle strings. However, it’s Anneli’s vocal that steals the show, as a rocky anthem unfolds. It’s bound to be a favourite on Anneli’s forthcoming tour.
Strings quiver dramatically on Fisherman´s Blues. It’s as if they’re signalling the danger that the fisherman face every day of their life. There’s a melancholy nature to the strings. They set the scene for Anneli’s vocal. Her lyrics are cinematic lyrics. It’s almost possible to imagine the fishermen, as they prepare to head out to sea. Anneli’s vocal is sometimes jazz-tinged, as she pays homage to their bravery. This she does with just her piano and strings for company. That’s all that’s needed to frame her vocal on this cinematic song.
From an understated introduction, Ocean´s Organ soon grows in drama. Accompanied by just subtle strings, Anneli’s vocal is loud and clear. It then drops out. Backing vocals are barked out, replicating a ship’s crew manning a ship in days gone by. Meanwhile strings sweep and the rhythm section provide a driving, dramatic backdrop. Suddenly, the arrangement reaches a crescendo and Anneli’s crystalline vocal returns. The song is transformed, as her vocal becomes impassioned, as it soars above the now rocky, dramatic arrangement. Along with her band, she creates an captivating, dramatic and cinematic arrangement.
Straight away, Rain has a dreamy sound. It reminds me of Kate Bush and Jerry Burns. Anneli plays piano and delivers a slow, carefully articulated vocal. Her lyrics are thoughtful and cerebral. Especially, lyrics like: “every seed has its place in the rain…why should you complain in the rain.” Behind Anneli the arrangement is ethereal and understated. As it meanders along, this allows the listener to concentrate on the lyrics, and of course one of Anneli’s finest and most versatile vocals.
There’s a stylistic change on Rocks and Straws. The arrangement has a slightly experimental sound. A guitar and drone set the scene for Anneli. She delivers a tender, breathy and sometimes dramatic vocal. It also has an ethereal quality on this short track, where we hear another side to Anneli Drecker.
In the distance, a plink plonk piano opens Seagull´s Melody. Soon, strings sweep in. They signal Anneli’s tender, ethereal vocal. Soon, she’s remembering the landscape that surrounded her growing up. She remembers the sound of the: “nightingale came as a guest in July.” However, it didn’t stay. Wistfully, Anneli remembers the only thing that stayed were the seagulls, and the “Seagull´s Melody.” They were the only birds capable of surviving the inclement weather.
The piano lead Waiting For A Boat closes Rocks and Straws. Straight away, Anneli sounds like Kate Bush. The similarity is uncanny. While there have been similarities throughout Rocks and Straws, this is different. Partly, that’s because of the arrangement. Swathes of strings are unleashed, while a drum plays. Mostly though, it’s just Anneli and her piano, as she remembers Waiting For A Boat, and leaving her hometown behind.
Although Waiting For A Boat is meant to close Rocks and Straws, there’s still the hidden track Little Tree that awaits discovery on the CD. Again, it’s mostly Anneli and her piano. Occasionally dark strings and bells interject. They compliment Anneli’s hope filled vocal, as she sings of the Little Tree. It could be a metaphor for new life, given the sound of a baby later in the track. Given the sense of hope that new life brings, Little Tree bookends Rocks and Straws perfectly.
Ten years might seem a long time to wait for an album. However, in the case of Anneli Drecker’s third album Rocks and Straws, it’s been well worth the wait. Rocks and Straws is a carefully crafted album, one where Anneli Drecker pays homage to the town and region that shaped her.
That’s apparent when one listens to Rocks and Straws’ lyrics. Anneli Drecker sings about the landscape, habitat and changing of the seasons. There’s even Fishermen’s Blues, which pays tribute to the local fishermen, who like night follows day, brave the inclement weather. Just like the other songs on Rocks and Straws, Anneli Drecker toys with the listener’s emotions.
The eleven songs on Rocks and Straws veer between cerebral and incisive, to beautiful, hopeful and joyous. Other times, the music is melancholy and wistful. Sometimes there’s a mysterious quality to Anneli Drecker’s lyrics, which conjures up pictures of the barren Arctic landscape. Always though, Rocks and Straws captivates. Especially the way Anneli Drecker delivers the lyrics.
Anneli Drecker’s vocal is ethereal. That’s the perfect description of Anneli Drecker’s vocal. It’s complimented by understated, acoustic arrangement. They frame Anneli Drecker’s vocals, as effortlessly, she breathes life, meaning and hope into lyrics. Other times, her vocal veers between tender, dramatic and powerful. Occasionally, Anneli Drecker’s vocal and tinged with sadness. Always, it’s heartfelt and impassioned. That’s because each of the eleven songs on Rocks and Straws are personal to Anneli Drecker. They’re about Anneli Drecker and her life and formative years. These years shaped Anneli Drecker, and made her what she is now. That’s one of the most talented singers in Europe.
Sadly, many people are yet to discover Anneli Drecker’s music. They may have heard her with Bel Canto or with Röyksopp. These are just two of the chapters in Anneli Drecker’s twenty-seven year career. During her career, Anneli has also collaborated with everyone from DJ Krush, Gavin Friday, and Jah Wobble, to Hector Zazou, Tim Simenon, Guy Sigsworth and Ketil Bjørnstad. However, now, Anneli Drecker is concentrating on her solo carer.
Anneli Drecker’s long awaited and much anticipated third solo album, Rocks and Straws, will be released on Rune Grammofon on 17th July 2015. Rocks and Straw is a career defining album which hopefully, will introduce a wider audience to the ethereal voice of the multi-talented Anneli Drecker.
ANNELI DRECKER-ROCKS AND STRAWS.