Could Divine by Anrimeal is an electronic folk record that builds on hip-hop, traditional choral music, piano cuts and the spectre of the feminine wild. Ana Rita de Melo Alves and her collaborators use texture, limitation and repetition to take us on a hypnotic journey. As her fairy-like voice trembles over spoken words and ghoulish echoes, one might imagine Elizabeth Siddal celebrating a mithraic ceremony with an unknown nun, hidden on heathland within a Neolithic barrow. This is a pitch of performance that moves from solitary mantra to a communal haunting. With its gleeful moments of cacophony and shivering frost, Could Divine is an album suited for listening in solitude, deepening in resonance each time.
The Demented Goddess (DG): This album has a bold religious quality, yet offers no easy consolations. That’s a refreshing change from Nature-inspired music, especially when coupled to a delicate feminine voice. Mantra-like and hypnotic, it feels perfect for those of us given to hermit-like moods. What was your mood, when you were making it?
I’m afraid it was very hermit-like too. Not because I’m that closed off, but because having a full-time job doesn’t allow much personal space. And ideas, songs, poems, they need to breathe, they need time to gain significance and context. That meant I essentially didn’t see anyone for nearly half a year, which made the experience very isolating. I was also very sad during this period and for a while before it, and I think that made it less difficult to choose to be alone.
I find it really intriguing that you say it “offers no easy consolations”, particularly because religion can so often be seen to fulfil that role of solace. I was more trying to find truth, really trying hard not to lie to myself. And truth is so often brutal and ugly, but also the only way forward, so in a way I did make truth my god and it felt very religious to write because of that.
DG: Obviously, the artist is not her work of art but, I do wonder, considering the echoes of water, mire and the eerie harmonies of ‘Encaustic Witches’, to what extent do you feel the natural world shapes your inner self? Or is that something you’ve resisted, in your time?
I’m not sure I ever acknowledged or processed the natural world until not long before I made this album. Nature is all living things, and there’s nothing scarier and more chaotic than life. How can you ever process something that you can zoom into indefinitely, and always find equally infinite amounts of detail? That’s what life is, intimidatingly complex and impossible to hone.
Even on a personal level, I had a really hard time acknowledging myself as a human/animal, as opposed to a well-oiled machine. Something about evolution of species and determinism that was always a bit alienating, almost like my body could be discordant or independent from me. I’m not sure I feel like a real person now, but this album is definitely an attempt at introducing a bit of the chaos and humanity into my personal universe.
DG: Why did you find solidarity in Eva Hesse’s sculptures while making this album?
I feel very illiterate when it comes to visual arts, it’s not something I ever studied or was very exposed to, but Eva’s work had a visceral impact on me, I think, for its simplicity, but also for its femininity. It was kind of rough and uncalculated, which I found very attractive. It was also different from the minimalism I was so used to seeing and hearing, which were very symmetrical, sharp and defined.
Her sculptures seemed to focus a lot on texture and repetition, which are such interesting ways to explore not only space and time, but also your relationship with them. A strange texture, or a very repetitive work are very effective tools for immersion because they often make you wonder how it would feel to touch something, or how long something is going to last for. It generates a conversation between you and the idea, which is intimate and fascinating.
DG: You’ve mentioned waiting in a state of ‘vigilance’ for the pieces of this album to cohere. That reminded me of Scott Walker talking about waiting for songs to emerge from silence. Trippy interiority churns into drum-fuelled conflict, in ‘I am not’, the third of its nine tracks. What did you have to reject in order to find the sound of this album?
I’m so happy to learn that about Scott Walker! Silence is an enormous part of my life, and I’m very protective over it.
The big thing for me was to learn to reject the idea that I knew who I was or what I sounded like. The majority of the work I did during this period wasn’t used because it was being written for a projection of myself. But I think all that is necessary too, to wear yourself out or to become accustomed to the image you have of yourself, to see it more clearly and spot it when it comes back to the writing. You see writing like this doesn’t stick for long, it doesn’t feel genuine. So sometimes that’d make me frustrated, other times relaxed; in either state, usually something better would come out.
‘Headrest’ is a good example of that. It wasn’t in the album till the week before mastering. There was a different song in its place, a good one too. But I intuitively knew that the other song brought the story to a confusing halt right in the middle of the record. And even though musically it fit right in, I had to accept that my intuition knew something I didn’t.
DG: ‘Could Divine’, a song using reverb and backtracking, seems to talk in tongues. It unravels, plummets then finds a point of vulnerable equanimity. It feels like a preparation for the final ascension into “the miracle” of ‘Death’, the last track. How important is it for an artist to confront death, in their work?
Confronting the concept of death seems to be one of those things that feels hugely personal, but is actually so universal. Everyone does it in their own way and in their own time. The only difference is that artists can use it as a subject of work and can choose to make it an aesthetic experience.
In that way, confronting death doesn’t feel so much important as inexorable, a part of life like any other. And I don’t mean to take away the importance of the artist, the provider of language. I believe the more we create about the difficult things that afflict us all, the more elegant we become at defining and communicating them to others, which can only be a step towards sympathy.
Having said that, I’m blessed that death came up in the form of a miracle to me. It made my sadness feel like a natural event, rather than a morally right or wrong experience.
Ana Rita de Melo Alves of Anrimeal was talking to Soma Ghosh, Editor of The Demented Goddess. ‘Could Divine’ is out on Demo & Crossness Records from 20th November 2020.
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