by Dan Eastmond
I have a bee in my bonnet at the moment. It’s a very 21st century insect, buzzing around my brain looking for something new, for an experience at once alien, undone and breathtaking. Ana Silvera offers perfect, and I do mean perfect, jewels of classical romance. So whilst I am here tonight to indulge in and feed my addiction to beauty, I am not expecting to find a beekeeping ally. But I do.
The show is split in to two halves, the first offering a reminder of what Ana Silvera has accomplished so far, from last years superb and haunting ‘Hometown’ single to the twisted desire of ‘Salome’. It’s astonishing how complete these songs are, from their poetry to the warmth the – now bigger – band brings to them, to the impeccable quality in Silvera’s delivery.
Those bands and artists who aspire to hook and land moments of beauty from the ether, should know they are trailing in the most elegant of wakes. Silvera writes songs as streamlined as a porpoise, magnificent creatures that dive to the very depths of your heart and pirouette through shimmering bubbles.
A short interval to catch ones breath and slug a whiskey (she is sipping port), before the second half beckons and takes a completely unexpected turn. Now, the twenty five strong Roundhouse Experimental Choir take to the stage and Silvera returns, eyes closed, focused and deliberate.
Given the opportunity to write new material with the Roundhouse Experimental Choir, Silvera has ditched the format of her existing catalogue, venturing instead into a more exploratory, textured, performance style.
Silvera appears in what is best described as the bottom half of a wedding dress (sorry, I’m no Gok Wan) and there’s a moment of anticipation before Oracles starts with intakes of breath, echoed by the choir. Strings stretch out to the audience like chinks of light, rhythms are fractured, the piano dances across melodies.
There are still songs here, from opener Tears of Oak, Fist of WillowWillow to the sublime I Grew Up In A Room Small As A Penny, but they roll deliberately in to one another, refusing to resolve, denying the closure of applause.
This is a concept performance. Does it take us somewhere new, on to virgin ground? No, not quite, not yet. Oracles pushes against the walls of structure, melody and rhyme, flirts with the boundaries of the mainstream but doesn’t yet smash them down. But, it’s the ambition here, the risks taken to find something unknown that have me propped on the edge of my seat.
I spent the first half thinking how much fun it would be for someone with the skills and the voice of Ana Silvera to dive in to the unconventional, the incomprehensible joy of the future. I spent the second half with a strange sense that someone had been stealing my thoughts.
Where Ana Silvera goes next is up for grabs, but for those of us with a growing hunger for an aesthetic that takes us in to our futures, it’s good to feel that (as is fitting) our companions are gathering.. unexpectedly.. with choirs and angels.
Ana Silvera presents ‘Oracles’
at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm
Wednesday 2nd Feb, 2011.
Find more about Ana Silvera here