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Anawan (formerly known as TWVE) is a five-piece band based in the waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn. The project of composer and multi-instrumentalist Trevor Wilson, Anawan is a hybrid animal: part avant-garde vocal ensemble and part wildly-experimental pop group. Wilson, the de facto leader of the group whose mentor Meredith Monk is but one discernible influence, is a restless and prolific musician who has written and released hundreds of songs. In Anawan, Wilson's innovative vocal stylizations are mirrored by the rest of the group, evoking the image of a five-headed beast harmonizing with itself. Their third album together, Anawan is the first to be released under the group's new name and has the feel of a debut. With the band sounding tighter than ever, Anawan aims for the heart and at the same time impresses the mind with its intricate and inventive arrangements.
Since first forming in 2011 as Trevor Wilson and Vocal Ensemble, the band has carved out an idiosyncratic niche for itself. Their sound includes a mixture of five-part layered vocal harmonies, nylon string guitar, electronics, synths, and keyboards. Yet the songs never feel tedious or over-wrought: on the contrary, the arrangements sound deceptively simple. For example, many songs begin with a single instrument: a strummed acoustic guitar, a keyboard melody, or in the case of "Breaded Me," a drum machine. But it's how the songs spiderweb out from their relatively humble beginnings that is most impressive about Anawan. It's this constant push and pull between restraint and catharsis (exemplified perhaps most dramatically on "Where Are You Now") that gives the album its subtle grace.
Going one step farther, the members of Anawan actually embody this simplicity in their everyday lives. Wilson, who grew up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, uses no social media and for a time lived and worked out of an RV with other members of the band (during heavy rain, a tarp would be thrown over the RV to prevent leaking). Wilson has only a basic computer for correspondence, and espouses a DIY-ethic for everything from concert promotion to album art (their previous LP All Material came packaged in beautifully hand-stenciled sleeves). Anawan takes advantage of this itinerant POV by exploring big, philosophical questions from an outsider's perspective.
The members of Anawan all met while studying at Bennington College. Since their debut album release Soft Wings, Anawan has toured across the northeast and performed in New York at Glasslands, Pioneer Works, and at Baby's All Right with fellow artists Nat Baldwin, Celestial Shore and Son Lux. Their sophomore album All Material, released on New Amsterdam Records revealed a tight knit group of friends growing together to create beautifully human music which evokes a curious nature and reflection. Anawan is yet another evolution, sure to inspire.
This album has such an unbelievable musical density that it's hard to grasp all of its nuances on first listen, and it simple washes me away every time. Sarah Kirkland Snider is one of the few genuinely innovative contemporary composers, having developed her own individual recipe of success by blending the best of classical, avantgarde, and experimental music in truly overwhelming orchestrations. Sven B. Schreiber
This Moscow-born, Alaska-raised, Brooklyn-dwelling singer/ keyboardist/composer has dabbed into many genres over the past decade like art pop, synth pop, electronica, classical piano and even a cabaret cover of Bjork. She has been a touring musician with Dirty Projectors and Chairlift. I never expected this concept album of Russian folk-inspired songs though. She's a consistently interesting leftfield artist. RIYL: My Brightest Diamond, Bat For Lashes Art Fin