Edit this event
A couple of songs into her set at the Union Chapel, Ane Brun introduces her three backing singers, lined up stage right. “These are my Diamonds…” she says. They have names (Rachel, from Wales… Rebekah, from Norway… Jenny, from the North of Sweden), but she saves the full introduction until near the end, after several awed comments, between songs, on how much she’s enjoying listening to them, herself. She’s not wrong, but she might as well have called them her Secret Weapons.
See, Ane Brun, solo, is a promising bluegrass singer-songwriter from Norway, with a severe, husky voice likely to be much in demand, the way that Will Oldham and Chan Marshall crop up everywhere. Her covers of ‘Big in Japan’ (Tom Waits), ‘The Dancer’ (PJ Harvey), and ‘True Colors’ (Dolly Parton) put her in the first rank of interpreters, in that she brings something distinctive to each that transcends genre. On record, she improves on the arrangement of Harvey’s song with an energetic cello part, whilst Waits’ lyrics are finally revealed in all their emotional complexity, with a wistful twang rather than the familiar huffing and bellowing. Neither are played tonight, but Ane delivers her most dynamically varied vocals in ‘True Colors’ (a highpoint), where her attempt to mimic Parton results in a distinctly different voice you wish she’d use more often.
Still, it’s the Diamonds who really make the night with their three- and four-part harmonies. On the third song, their Ah-Aaahs lurch violently, reaching the top of the chapel, in contrast to the clipped and almost ironic delivery of Ane’s refrain, “to let myself go...” Much more than providing backing vocals to amplify particular moments, they provide texture, depth, landscape, an unconscious, a backstory for the lyrics, which are almost too minimal, although Ane has enough intensity to make lines like “I walked into a minefield” seem entirely convincing, when repeated a dozen times. The title-track of Ane’s new album, ‘Changing of the Seasons’, may be the most exquisitely pretty moment for her Diamonds, but they also dominate a more light-hearted doo-wop song later in the set, and the one completely a capella chorus “if you know what I need” is forceful enough to carve out its own complex shape within the gloom. With only the one guitar for accompaniment, however, and an apparent reluctance to move her chord shapes more than one fret at a time, when fingerpicking, Ane repays concentration but doesn’t always command it. In fact, only one song, toward the end, actually features a key-change – breaking the mood of dogged determination not to be the first one to give in, to cry, or collapse under the pressure of whatever any given song might be about (as she says early on, only half-joking, “another song about heartbreak coming your way...”).
After that a capella coda, two-thirds of the way through, Ane moves to the piano for a pair of songs strongly reminiscent of Frida Hyvonen; that may seem like a lazy comparison for a Scandinavian (like comparing Ane to Gillian Welch because of her frighteningly Puritan dress sense, and shoes that look like they’re carved out of rifle-stocks). In fact, no-one else plays the piano quite so clunkily, and although the Diamonds yodel merrily through the first song, and caterwaul weirdly through the second, these seem like a pointless diversion, endearing only for the explanation afterwards that they were scared to sing F_ Off in church, except Rachel, who Ane calls a “Welsh [lady of easy virtue].” The set ends with (support act) Teitur joining them, to add a male voice to the mix. Maybe it’s unfamiliarity with the songs, and maybe it’s a simple lack of instrumentation, but Ane Brun – live – needs to offer more.
- In Photos: Bestival 2012 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight
- This Week's Singles: 2/04/12 Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Ane Brun, The Dø, Guided By Voices
- Singles of the Year 2011!
- Nordic Music Prize 2011 shortlist announced
- Spotifriday #118 - This week on DiS as as playlist ft. SBTRKT, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Ane Brun + mor
- In Photos: Ane Brun @ The Scala, London
- Spotifriday #101 featuring DOOM, Vivian Girls, Mogwai + more
- This Week's Singles: 25/07/11 Ane Brun, Lucas Santtana, Inc., Paul White