Everyone does their thing a little bit differently, ALA.NI sings on the seductive opening track of her new album ACCA. We last heard from her on the wonderful You and I album (which I reviewed a couple of years ago) and since then she has been experimenting further with the boundaries of her unique sound. This new album has been written and recorded almost entirely a cappella, with the vocal tracks then being layered to sound like instruments. The result is a dizzying mix of innovation that sounds spontaneous and utterly sparkling throughout.
Her voice is still tinged with an old school jazz tone, but she twists and contorts herself into so many dizzying directions on this album that it gives you a little light head rush at times (in a good way). The opening track sets the tone and then she invites none other than Iggy Pop himself into her world, sharing a slightly menacing slice of French spoken word on Le Diplomate.
Hide is more reminiscent of her previous work, with a string section and birdsong added to her vocal arrangements. It’s whimsical, carefree and just sublime. The fact that Ala.ni used to be a dancer is not a surprise to me, since songs like Papa and Sha La La twirl and move in unexpectedly brilliant ways. The whole album sounds like we are dancing with her through a spring day in Paris.
Bitch is like a mash up of hip hop, a capella and old school jazz which shouldn’t work but absolutely does. Van P is a more modern sound overall, perhaps the closest thing on this record to a straight contemporary song, with a guest rap from Lakeith Stanfield. This song made me think that her closest musical contemporary might be someone like Solange, who similarly ploughs her own unique musical furrow.
The album finishes with Away Go, where her voice alone takes centre stage, with the background vocals only a quiet echo. She sings to an ex-lover, asking them to leave her alone. She doesn’t need them anymore. Her future path is clear.
ALA.NI has found musical freedom on this album. By leaving instruments aside she has learned to trust her voice and her vision with rich and rewarding results.