Anna Kashfi: Lakeside Call / whitworth Park
Manchester-based alternative country group, Anna Kashfi, have been through a lot of changes since they released their last record, six track mini-album, ‘Philokelia’, back in 2000. Their then label, the locally-based Emma’s House recordings, folded shortly afterwards and they have since then found a new home at another Mancurian label, Stolenwine records. The group, which originally consisted of duo Sian Webley (vocals) and James Youngjohns (guitars, banjo, harmonium, pedal steel), has expanded to a four piece and now also includes Sarah Kemp (viola, glockenspiel) and Peter Martin (bass, guitar).
A highlight of previous Anna Kashfi recordings has been Webley’s aerobic vocals. ‘Philokelia’ found her confidently taking on a wide range of guises which ran a convincing course from waif-like innocent to hard-headed woman of the world, and from heartbroken, abandoned lover to vengeful harpy.
‘Lakeside Call/Whitworth Park’, which, like its predecessor, has come out as vinyl only release, has her adopting another two distinct personas.
On ‘Lakeside Call’ Webley plays the part of a husky-voiced older woman, whose lustful cravings for a boy young enough to be her son whom she watches swimming on a lake, force her to assess her own relationship in which her lover, despite being largely physically cold and emotionally distant from her, begs her to stay. Youngjohns both beats out an intense three-chord rhythym on an acoustic guitar, and plucks at a tingling banjo. Kemp’s violin shimmers mournfully, while Martin’s understated bass adds further to the general tension and claustrophic atmosphere of the song. “Actions speak louder/How loud do I have to act before powder and paint starts to crack” sings Webley at her lover capturing perfectly all the desperation and pathos of her character’s confused situation.
‘Whitworth Park’ is on the surface lighter and breezier. Webley’s airy vocals tell of a perfect day spent in a park with her lover. Kemp’s chiming glockenspiel merges wth Youngjohns’ rambling guitarwork to strident effect, but, there is, however, a twist to the tale. The day, for all its cinemascopic glory, happened years ago. The relationship broke up shortly afterwards (“We’re laughing, haven’t guessed, but this is as good as it gets”) and Webley’s former boyfriend is now dead.
At barely nine minutes in length, ‘Lakeside Call/Whitworth Park’ is a tantalisingly brief, but impressive return to the fore for Anna Kashfi, and combines evocative lyricism with sharp, intelligent lyricism. With half a new album already recorded, their line-up stabilised and their record company problems at last sorted there will hopefully be much more from them soon. It has been far too long since we last enjoyed their stark, subtle pleasures.