Influenced by choral music in both Christian and Hindustani traditions, Californian musician Ana Roxanne beguiled the leftfield in 2019 with her debut ~~~, where synth burbles, sombre chords and pure vocals seemed to emanate from the other side of a valley swathed in fog. That haze lifts on this ambitious follow-up, resulting in greater clarity and vulnerability – and making space for new elements to shine through.
Suite Pour l’Invisible and Take the Thorn, Leave the Rose feature gorgeous slowcore jazz guitar lines reminiscent of Tortoise at their slowest or noughties Kranky labelmates Labradford, while standout track Camille brings in a drum machine over a Julia Holter-style pop-ambient vocal line to spectacular effect. The drum machine’s dinky shuffle recalls Timmy Thomas’s R&B ballad Why Can’t We Live Together or outsider gospel singer Otis G Johnson, where lo-fi ersatz percussion creates a ghostly mirrorworld.
Roxanne has said that her intersex identity informs the album. The untitled opening track examines yin and yang in overlapping voices (“these two have joined, and bound at their juncture has come a third”), and her spoken word passage on Venus wistfully ponders water, “indiscriminately merging with anything and everyone”, perhaps a metaphor for the mutability of gender. But any readings are worn lightly, and by letting other lyrics hover at the edge of imperceptibility or melt into wordlessness, she gives the listener the materials to build their own psychic space. Minus the blandly pretty chimes of an instrumental entitled ---, this is a magical record, one that instils a mindful awareness of your body while also taking you utterly outside of it.