• The Harbour Song
• Gardenias & Cigarettes
• Notes From An Opera
• Snow Queen
• Coronation Dance
• Letter From New York
• All The King’s Horses
• Song For Daniel
• Rainbows Fans of Ana Silvera’s gorgeously melancholy 2010 piano-led single ‘Hometown’ will be delighted to know that her long-awaited debut album, The Aviary, includes eleven more tracks of equally heartbreaking beauty.
Silvera has led a somewhat peripatetic lifestyle, beginning her musical education with the English National Opera before living for a time in Ibiza, joining the Berlin anti-folk movement and collaborating with filmmakers and dancers in New York, and performing in jazz clubs across Europe. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that all the songs on The Aviary seem to draw from the same palette in terms of orchestration, imagery and emotion. In another’s hands this approach could rapidly stale but Silvera applies such a richly detailed aesthetic to her work that this is never an issue, the result being a multifaceted and utterly beguiling piece of art. That she recorded the album with members of Antony & The Johnsons and co-producers Brad Albetta (Martha Wainwright, Angus & Julia Stone) and Ray Singer (Japan, David Sylvian, Joan Armatrading – also Silvera’s uncle) provides heavyweight endorsement of her talents.
Silvera’s much-loved brother Daniel, who was taken from the world too early, has been a profound influence on her musical career, from her early recordings through to the creation of her 2010 song cycle Oracles. His memory clearly remains an important driving force in Silvera’s creative expression (the title of the vivid, poignant ‘Song For Daniel’ needs no further explanation), and emotional loss on a grander scale provides the central theme that drives the album. But rather than treading this well-worn songwriting territory through tired confessionals, Silvera explores her theme through fairytale mysticism, classic texts, nineteenth-century romanticism and roaming images of elemental nature, particularly the sea. Songs like ‘Hometown’ and ‘Coronation Dance’ use water as a metaphor for emotional or physical separation, and it is this idea of our helplessness in the face of natural decay and entropy that informs the sweet melancholy of Silvera’s vision.
Inviting the listener into the very personal inner world of a fragile yet resilient artist, it’s a collection of songs that, on the whole, isn’t easy to pin down: those looking for the immediacy of a pop song will find value here, as will any deep-listening aesthete. ‘The Harbour Song’ is one of the more upbeat inclusions, moving from a gently swaying opening to a double-time syncopated rhythm, adding to the nautical ambience with the addition of choral harmonies and Anja McCloskey’s expert accordion. Silvera has made sure that there is much to savour and explore, bringing her poetic and intelligent erudition to both the musical arrangements and her wonderfully expressive vocals. Blessedly free of vibrato, her smoky rawness never works better than on ‘Gardenias & Cigarettes’. Elsewhere, it is complemented by the higher pitched precision of ‘Notes From An Opera’, which reads like a European romantic novel with its opera houses, army officers, war, loss (of course), and the irreversible decline of a broken woman.