Album Review : Ana Silvera ‘ The Fabulist ‘ is The Folk Album Of The Year.

Ana Silvera - The Fabulist

The Breakdown

Early Frost- Ana Silvera ( From The Album The Fabulist )

Without ascertaining any form of comparison to up and coming singer-songwriters, there comes a time when music fans and musicians alike must recognise true , authentic talent when it stands before them, majestic and humble. That is in all honesty what I think of Ana Silvera’s music, and am completely mystified that it took me ages to really discover her music. I’m glad that my first musical introduction to her was through a few tracks we’ve debuted here at Backseat from her riveting new album , ‘ The Fabulist’. The first release since her much-lauded ‘Oracles’ live album (Guardian Critics’ Pick
2018; “a rare commitment to art” – CLASH), singer-songwriter Ana Silvera has worked and produced this album with award-winning multi instrumentalist Gerry Diver (BBC Folk Awards, Mercury Prize) and featuring stellar musicians including LA-based singer-songwriter Alan Hampton (Fiona Apple,
Andrew Bird) and double bassist Jasper Høiby (Phronesis, Planet B). Known for her lyrical, emotive alt-folk and bluegrass stylings, works of ‘lavish, vivid imagination’ (Metro), Ana has helmed a number of tours and collaborations over the past decade with notable British contemporaries including Imogen Heap, Olivia Chaney, Jim Moray, Bill Laurance (Snarky Puppy), Maya Youssef, Mara Carlyle,
Max de Wardener and Aidan O’Rourke (LAU).

That’s quite an accolade of collaborative artists, but lets zone in on what’s important here: her songwriting , her voice, and the mind-blowing way in which she sounds like she’s performing her songs on stage, on record in the studio. In short, let’s acknowledge the true ‘Fabulist’ at work here, Ms. Silvera herself . The album title, meaning ‘teller of fables’, speaks to Ana’s love of storytelling, with the songs both drawing on the lives of “imagined others” as well as plumbing the depths of her own emotional experiences. Beginning with ‘Halos’ , Ana reveals herself immediately as a vulnerable protagonist ‘watching the trees in the midst like Halos’. A dark, emotive track over a brooding string section, Ana’s voice showcases that sense of magic and wonder that sets the tone for the entire album. ‘ Sink Or Swim’ made me smile with a profound sense of gratitude for two reasons : a small musically formative nod ( perhaps unconsciously) to Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘ If You Could Read My Mind’ . Two, as the track unfolds Ana’s protagonist swirls and reveals herself to be swimming amongst a sea of misplaced desire, emphasis by a stellar rhythm section alternating rhythms to showcase Ana’s duality in conversation with the love she desires, and the love she holds . ‘ Early Frost’, a duet with Alan Hampton, tells the story of a couple living a seemingly picture-perfect life – marriage,a house, a perfectly tended garden – but “like a hidden fault on an iced-up lake / it’s the smallest things that can make it break”. ‘Ghosts’, which we’ve already reviewed at Backseat, is the most heart-wrenching track of the entire album. It describes Ana’s witnessing of her teenage brother’s descent into psychosis over the course of a sweltering London summer: “You were dumbstruck by the ghosts / who waltzed your body down the hall”. ‘Red Balloon’ describes the dizzying, disorienting pull of a forbidden yet magnetic attraction replete with off-kilter drums, soaring violins and the tender swells of Adrian Lever’s guitar pedals. ‘The Fabulist’ herself seems to succumb to a more playful and youthful spirit, venturing towards the great unknown. ‘Queen of Swords’ is a haunting, almost bewitching summon to the total embodiment of female strength. The music is a thing of pure beauty, because if you listen closely , “in sorrow silence spoke “, and it becomes clear this is a story of how much a female can endure in the face of oppression. Silvera’s haunting harmonies solidify the track as an ode to all women who have suffered. ‘ Pont Mirabeau’ lifts the coats of the ‘Fabulist’ to reveal yet another side to Silvera’s immense talent. Sung in French and an ode to the famous Parisian metal Bridge , we are inspired to dream of landscapes of bygone friends and lovers meeting at the bridge for conversations that last a lifetime, and end as suddenly as they began, with each person longing like the protagonist : ‘ she said come near me, because it’s been too long a time. ‘ Magelan’ feels like a somewhat traditional English folk tune that celebrates the joy of a live well lived, with the final track ‘ Hyperballad’ reverting to a more contemporary folk sound. Silvera quite beautifully sings ” I go through all of this before you wake up so I can feel happier and feel safe again with you “; as if she reminds the listener that we are in fact the sum of all our parts . We are going to be at once brave, then free and confident like no other , then tentative, then full of passion. We are all like ‘The Fabulist’ . conjuring up our own stories amidst a clock of a collective story of our lives.

Of the album itself, Ana herself says, “Gerry and I wanted to root these songs in a folk sound-world – with instruments like acoustic guitar and fiddle as our primary palette – whilst bringing in contemporary elements such as mellotron, Wurlitzer and electric guitar. Production-wise we took inspiration from albums like Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Court and Spark’ and songs like Scott Walker’s ‘It’s Raining Today’, those rich, expansive arrangements with flutes, gossamer strings and instrumental interludes. It was a real joy working together to find a unique musical vocabulary for such a deeply personal collection of songs”. Ana is already touring the UK in support of ‘The Fabulist’ throughout May ‘22, alongside Jasper Høiby (d.bass), Marc Michel (guitar) and drummer / multi-instrumentalist Chris Vatalaro (Sam Amidon, Bat for Lashes). The London launch will be at
Bush Hall on Thursday 19th May.

Do support Ana on her tour , here .

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