In the congested realm of 'characterful' singer-songwriters, Calvi's surety of vision is refreshing.
The descriptor “arresting” doesn’t do the second album by Anna Calvi justice. In places, One Breath is in fact truly startling, its questing, dynamics-rich arrangements a classy noir backdrop for an audacious, almost operatic-sounding singer who has learnt from Maria Callas as well as PJ Harvey. Calvi brings a feverish intensity to songs such us Suddenly and Tristan, while on Eliza, her vertiginous guitar solo seems to emanate from the eye of a hurricane. The Anglo-Italian singer is an able multi-instrumentalist, but one of her key foils here is the sometime Portishead collaborator John Baggot, whose fabulously spooky synthesizer takes us into The Twilight Zone on Sing to Me. One Breath also makes choice use of dulcimer, prepared piano and harmonium, so there’s no shortage of exotica. Though the outré, drum machine-anchored Piece By Piece has shades of Hounds of Love-era Kate Bush and there’s a gothic, Siouxie & The Banshees-like majesty to the aforementioned Tristan, Calvi is leading, not following here. In the ever more congested realm of “characterful” singer-songwriters, her passion and surety of vision are a breath of fresh air.