The Anchoress is producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, PhD, and former ballet dancer Catherine Anne Davies. NPR described her as “Wales’ much more explicitly feminist answer to Lana Del Rey.” “Karen Carpenter singing John Grant,” said UNCUT. “Hounds Of Love, updated for the 21st century,” is how PROG summed up her debut LP, ‘Confessions of a Romance Novelist’, released earlier this year. Alongside praise from the critics, her songwriting and ambitious production has found fans in the likes of Peter Gabriel, David Gilmour, Bernard Butler, Simple Minds, and Mansun’s Paul Draper.
One of many endeavours by Catherine Ann Davies who, according to what I can interpret from The Internet is a ridiculously cool and well-connected individual, who seems to be trying on various Bowie-esque guises and has settled on this one for now.
When the music starts I have to check it’s not Tori Amos on stage. (Google: “What Goes Around” and “Popular”.) Which made me happy. Tori Amos had some fantastic moments (as well as some pretty fantastically pretentious ones), so colour me interested.
Oh, and I like this second one! It sounds like PJ Harvey circa 1995. A style not explored thoroughly enough by anyone. What joy! Although it’s interesting that that strained vocal fry in her voice (which Peej certainly shares) is ever-so-slightly getting on my nerves.
The band are great. The drummer in particular brings a lot of energy and attitude to each track, and they can certainly do that swelling-building-instrumental thing.
Basically, Davies seems to vacillate between several styles, all of which she performs well, but none of which really feel wholly her own.
I wish I didn’t have to immediately compare The Anchoress with two other female-fronted bands, but what can I do? This feels like a flashback. When I first saw PJ Harvey tour To Bring You My Love she wore a pink cat-suit and played the guitar with a knife. I fell profoundly and importantly in love and it took a series of indifferent albums to break my adoration.
Watching Davies in her clinging sequins, brilliantly feline bunches and B52s-style sunglasses writhe and pulsate around the mic I’m wondering why the same trick isn’t working 20 years later. I’d love for her to crack my cynicism so I could let this all swim around me, but I can’t help but see artifice.
She explains that this is only their sixth gig as a band, and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that. There’s real musicianship here, and genuine talent. I will certainly keep watching this band, and maybe they sound quite different recorded [Edit: they kind-of do]?
There are several moments during the closing track when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Which is nothing to be sniffed at, and is essentially why anyone would do this. I just wish there’d been more!
It feels cruel to say it, and I’m sure it’s hugely frustrating for artists to hear, but I really do feel like this band’s greatest moments are probably in their future.