It’s rare for A Closer Listen to cover albums that are remixed or reimagined when we haven’t covered the parent project ~ but now we’re doing it for the second time in one week. Just as Eartheater turned a vocal electronic project into an extended ambient-drone mix, anrimeal has transformed last year’s creative, vocal-minded debut Could Divine into something that sounds more like a podcast or a personal phone call. It’s one of the most intimate projects we’ve ever heard, reflecting its bedroom genesis.
Not that Could, Divine was mainstream. From the birds of “Marching Parades” to the Scriptures of “Encaustic Witches” to the suddenly stuttered mid-piece turn of the title track, the album displays the product of a restless, creative mind. anrimeal (London’s Ana Rita de Melo Alves, by way of Porto) is a true original, already iconoclastic.
So what might one expect from a remix album? A series of guest artists, smoothing out the rough surfaces, placing the artist’s vocals within a context of unvarying beats? Extensions of the “catchy parts,” such as the handclaps of “Vertical” (00:40-01:32 in a track four times that length)? Carte blanche for the silent, 36-second “Breather?”
Instead of a track-by-track remix, we find a discussion of the album’s birth, the turns considered, the choices made. We encounter spoken word akin to diary entries; alternate takes; demos; and yes, remixes, but not the type one might expect. In the opener, anrimeal describes herself as “a spectator living off her room” and confesses, this album isn’t about going into the wild, but rather about being in a tight room and finding a window.” Life weighs on me, she sings, and I am coming down. What better description of the lockdown experience? Mid-piece, the track grows layered, like an internal conversation, while strings rise from the ether. The delightfully non-linear track is only an overture, a second window opening, this one in the imagination of the listener, who due to the personal nature of the album, one might call the receiver. The ability to order a handmade candle or video chat only solidifies the impression.
The transformation of “Encaustic Witches” to “Encaustic Witches As An Ambient Track To Help Me Sleep” is permeative, a thorough soaking in sound during which most of the vocals fall from the flesh like impermanent ink, leaving only a residue. In like fashion, “Elegy for an Empty Coffin” becomes “Elegy for an Empty Ocean,” words redistributed, tranforming the water splash effects of its parent, now twice as long, a new yet related entity. Even “anrimeal’s Real Breather” now has sound. Does a track ever exist in final form? “Headrest” is particularly endearing in its new skin, as the artist stops and starts her song in order to describe her feelings for and against it. She even performs a piece of an excised piece in the middle of her essay on the prime performance.
In one of the most intriguing pairings, “Vertical” becomes “Horizontal” in a collaboration with Xqui. The handclaps are gone, the sung lyrics replaced by spoken word. The line “life weighs on me” resurfaces like the memory sparked by a string on the finger. Unusual for a “remix,” the new track is only a third the length of the original. And finally, “Death” becomes “Death As A Burning Ritual,” but the interpretation comes from the inflection one chooses. The burning may well be that of the handmade candle, as generous and benign as anrimeal has been in baring her soul. (Richard Allen)