“Be the Media” – Annabelle Chvostek
If you’re after an album that’s safe and unpredictable and you know exactly what’s coming next, then “Be the Media” is definitely not the album for you. Annabelle Chvostek’s fifth solo album moves away from the folky sound of her two previous albums “Rise” and “Resilience” to a sound that is lo-fi and embraces styles from indie thrash to psychedelia with several stops and detours on the way. It’s fair to say that with this album, you never know what’s coming next. Annabelle’s roots are in Canada, which may go some way to explaining the affinity to and parallels with Neil Young, who’s also had the odd change of direction along the way.
The album is built around live-band recordings with some overdubs added later and the raw, Stooges-like, power of the title song gives some idea of the direction the album’s taking, but there are still plenty of surprises to come. “Jerusalem” is mournful lyrically and musically with the added melancholy of some Middle-Eastern violin to season the mixture. “Black Hole” sets the controls for the heart of the sun with the simple, if bleak, message that we’re all irrelevant compared to the vastness of the universe, delivered over a soundscape that’s part early Pink Floyd and part Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane”; it’s certainly dramatic. “This Night” is the closest the album comes to a love song, if you count ‘Your hand is the hand I hold to jump out of the burning tower’ as a lyric. Powerful yes: cheerful no.
“Carnal Delights” is the perfect example of the albums’s twist and turns. From a doom-laden minor key verse, the song bursts into chorus in 3/4 time that’s straight out of a sleazy 1930s cabaret routine; and yes, that is someone playing a saw (Lisa Gamble, actually). It’s an odd one, but the contrast works perfectly. “You Can Come Now” is probably closest to Annabelle’s earlier work with gentle electric guitar and a vocal that isn’t pushing at the edges her voice’s power; it’s very different from the songs it’s surrounded by. As if to cement the Shakey connection, there’s a stripped-back cover of “Like a Hurricane” featuring mainly mandolin and piano with a touch of guitar. It’s very different and it works.
“Inside the Scream/Screen” returns to the spiky guitars and claustrophobic technophobia of the title track before another change of pace to “Say it Right” which has a hint of Television-styled guitars and the album’s only example of swearing; one use of ‘fucking’ for emphasis and a bit of shock value is so much more powerful than using it in every sentence.
So Annabelle Chvostek, Tony Spina (drums), Jérémie Jones (bass and organ), Lisa Gamble (saw and backing vocals), Jordi Rosen (backing vocals), and co-producer Jeff Oehler have created a piece of work that moves from menacing to mournful to manic but never loses its grip on your attention; you may not know what’s round the corner, but you can bet it’s going to be worth hearing.
“Be the Media” is released on June 1 on MQGV (ABC123).