In a twirled world, things spin out of our control. Orbiting the sun in its steadfast way, the planet obeys only universal, ungovernable laws; indomitable winds turn upon the land with fury causing widespread devastation; and water, the most obdurate element, is never fully stilled. In a twirled world, history repeats itself over and again and things apparent to some are still hidden to others. In the making of her third album, Lancashire-born experimental musician and visual artist Anne Garner seems to have taken some of these inevitabilities on board.
Just as her would-be debut, 2006′s Magic & Madness, was preceded by an album of electronic remixes of some of its songs, Trusting A Twirled World escapes from Garner’s North London home studio as a complete reinvention of its original form. Starting life as piano-based sketches, Garner and husband/producer James Murray tore these six songs down to their essential components then gradually rebuilt them with layer after layer of organic instrumentation and atmospheric flourishes of subtle electronics. The result is a tranquil, almost vaporous, collection that seduces the ears with meticulous attention to detail.
Lyrically, Garner’s songs are like snapshots of dream sequences. A strong theme of disclosure runs through all six songs; a need to uncloud the mind and de-clutter the surroundings, to seek truth, peace and harmony in falsified accounts and twisted appearances. It’s earnest, yes, but the music is so magical and generously spacious that Garner’s recitations are never overbearing. You could almost listen to the album without absorbing a single word; the vocals act first and foremost as an additional instrument that glides along the beds of strings and sparse piano. Certain phrases stick out every time – the “breaking glass” of ‘Stones’, the “gremlins gnawing at [her] feet” in ‘Twirled World’ – but most show themselves fully only on closer inspection.
Perhaps the album’s most heartstopping moments are the perfect notes that Garner hits in ‘Twirled World’ (the way her vocal rises to meet the pivotal refrain of “If I falter, will you be here for me?” is really quite stunning) and the final two minutes of album closer ‘When To Stay’ when Oliver Cherer’s muted trumpet chimes in for the first time amid a cluster of strings. “For a moment the earth breathes in rhythm… I just laugh,” sings Garner as the song abruptly ends, throwing out a sense of relief that comes almost as a shock.
With the exception of the very evidently Celtic echoes of ‘The Tower’, Trusting A Twirled World feels almost like an English cousin of Anja Garbarek’s decade-old Smiling & Waving. That’s not to suggest any link between the two, just that both albums wonderfully combine soft, high vocals with smartly arranged acoustic instrumentation and electronic ambient washes, never failing to disarm. Trusting A Twirled World would almost certainly benefit from slightly more diversity and could have stood to be one or two tracks longer; as it stands, though, Garner and Murray have created a hushed, intelligent record that, for twenty-three minutes, makes the world feel like it’s turning just that little bit slower.
[Slowcraft; February 1, 2011]