I love Little Annie’s voice. It’s a time-stretched instrument; a voice wracked with melancholy, a voice you’ll find singing alone in a bomb-blasted, ex-colonial hotel at the outer edges of the Empire. The press release puts her way down in the mix, as if she’s on there in the same way she was on Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain, but this is misleading. This album isn’t hers but it is hers. Larsen are creeping around, Baby Dee is tinkling pianos, but this is her party and the other players are simply gracious (sometimes too gracious) hosts. She’s all over this album. It’s hers.Throughout the album, even in the instrumental sections, Larsen seem hesitant, as if their music is meticulously designed not to infringe on Annie’s voice. They see that abandoned, bomb-shell of a hotel too, they see her alone at the piano, singing the end of the world and they’re caught up in the rapture, the cracks and creaks in her voice, the way she seems to spin webs around her. They see this and it’s freezing them. They’re in that hotel too, but they’re watching from behind the rubble.
At times, the collaboration works really well. “Me and Mrs Jones” is given a slutty, slurry mangling on “Ohm Av. D” and the way it’s pieced together; voices tumbling over and through each other, is very evocative. “It Was A Very Good Year,” on the other hand, is treated too reverently and played as straight as any version can be post-Shatner. It’s not bad, Annie’s voice is certainly up to the standards, but it’s not necessary; coming out of a Vietnam hotel as dawn breaks, this might singe a few neurons but on cold, spinning CD, in the harsher light of day, it’s not diverting enough; it could be anyone. The same could be said for the tinkling instrumentals. “12 Eyes” is pleasant but has little that would make you listen – the odd frazzle, the odd misty edge but it’s music that is… hardly there. A rejected This Mortal Coil track would be harsh but fair. I like This Mortal Coil, but…“Annie’s Rap” is interesting though: her tone’s a bit Henry Rollins, a bit Steven Jesse Bernstein. This could be a subset of No No Man. An odd, prosaic journey into a frazzled female, similar of course to “Things Happen” and she says the word ‘cigarette’ like no one else; she says it like it’s an onomatopoeic word. The backing though is dull, slightly jazzy, not damaged enough. It sounds a little too much like someone got a new drum set for Christmas, though the frazzled guitar has its moments.
I love Little Annie’s voice but I’d like her to collaborate with someone who isn’t in love with her voice. This needs to be awe-less. When Tricky smeared Martina Topley-Bird all over Maximquaye, he did so knowing that her voice would elevate his music by fighting softly against it. Larsen need to fight with Little Annie, especially if she becomes a permanent member. They need to impose on her and let her voice find its way through the wreckage. She sings best when the walls are tumbling down around her. This album has its moments but the walls are not tumbling.