The hot potato style of Annabelle Chvostek leaps all over her new album as she well and truly parks the acoustic folk slant to one side to herald a dark and moody release. Fully creative and experimental in its serving, BE THE MEDIA twists, turns and snakes around with the empowered electric guitar driving the sound. This is far removed from the pure tones of the Wailin’ Jennys where Annabelle raised her profile nearly a decade ago, but perhaps more in tune with an explorative artist determined to plough the independent route.
While being an album which warrants a few spins to grasp its mettle, listeners will detect aspects of old Annabelle alongside the new especially those in tune with her fiery passion for the protest song. Fans of her previous Juno nominated album RISE will quickly align with the two numbers providing an outlet for her anger. The title track ‘Be the Media’ turns the heat up right from its prominent position of album opener and proceeds to be the dominant piece on a record where Annabelle has sought a particularly minimalist approach to making music. A heavier and rockier sound to this passionate outpouring may need a touch of ear adjusting but the message is stark and clear. A trait which endears Annabelle to many likeminded admirers.
With an instantaneous floor to tape feel to the record, Annabelle once again teams up with regular bassist Jeremie Jones and percussionist Tony Spina, a trio which become the standard touring format. Unfortunately an opportunity didn’t arise to catch the recent UK tour to promote the album’s June 1 release, but there is little doubt she will be back and getting to grips with the record is a near perfect substitute.
|Photo by Ximena Griscti|
The other track with protest connotations is the challenge to faith in ‘Jerusalem’ which soon gives way to Annabelle seeping into more prophetic mode especially in the dark and philosophical song ‘Black Hole’, where the extra musical accompaniment of saw adds to the intrigue. This sound edges into the follow on track ‘Carnal Delights’ with a continued eerily feel taking you into the weirder corners of your mind. For those seeking a little more light, the chorus from this last track shows a slight glimpse into a brighter world which is then further illuminated by the palatable beauty of ‘You Can Come Now'.
The irresistible pull of a Canadian singer-songwriter covering a Neil Young song is too much for Annabelle as she reaches for the more conventional mandolin to pay respects to the ever popular ‘Like a Hurricane’. The high quality take on this track makes it forgivable that Annabelle elected to insert a cover in a nine song album, which still managed to edge into the optimum forty minute playing time. The final two songs under consideration are headed by the more intrinsic rock beat providing the underlay to ‘Inside the Scream/Screen’, before the conventionally layered song structure highlights what Annabelle does best in ‘Say it Right’.
BE THE MEDIA is a record which tempts, lures and fascinates in equal measure while demonstrating that Annabelle Chvostek can flit around her folk roots core and enlist the listener on a pursuit of deeper drive. This desire to experiment in alternative directions makes Annabelle an integral member of the artistic scene which successfully fuses the traditional and the progressive.