By way of an introduction, AVA are violinist Anna Phoebe and pianist Aisling Brouwer who collectively released their stunning debut album, Waves, in July of this year. Although written against the farcical Brexit debacle, the music is neither chaotic or directionless, on the contrary, the album follows in a clear and precise path, and the outcome is more than satisfactory. So what Anna and Aisling have created here is not so much a comment on the situation, but a complete antithesis, a tranquil retreat from the madness.
From track one to track ten, the music transports the listener to a place of calm. To this end I deemed the overarching theme of the album to be that of water, or more specifically the sea, whether it be waves, after the album title, or by the numerous tracks that lay substance to this notion – Ocean, Voyager, Deep Blue and Underwater. So the delightful and ethereal Waves sets all in motion with Aisling’s deft piano and Anna’s sweepingly majestic violin depicting rising waves with sea birds floating effortlessly on the wind.
I imagined a similar setting to track two, In Motion, only to have my perceptions dashed by the official video for the track, which sees a young dancer moving gracefully through a series of rural and industrial locations. Ahh, don’t you just love the freedom of imagination afforded by instrumental music? The track itself is mesmerising, living up to its title with a constant driving motion, as it carries you on its journey.
Tranquil, free-spirited, peaceful, hypnotic, serene, haunting, cinematic, these are just a few of the words jotted down whilst compiling notes for this article. I began to sense the resultant track-by-track review being a somewhat tedious and repetitive affair, for it is one of the year’s most engaging albums, so a change of tack and let’s revisit the opening sentence which briefly introduced the AVA duo.
Violinist and composer Anna Phoebe is an in demand musician, covering a multitude of genres – classical, dance, film, solo and, of course, bands. I first came across her as a guest on Jethro Tull’s Acoustic Tour back in 2007 and then again with the full electric band. Anderson’s flute was, as always, exemplary, however it was Anna’s captivating violin and the interaction between Anderson and Phoebe that was truly captivating and a thing to behold.
On the other hand, and prior to this album, ambient classical composer, producer and pianist Aisling Brouwer was an unknown, to me I hasten to add. A classically trained musician who now specialises in music for visuals and has written pieces for film and TV, including the BBC and Channel 4, Aisling’s ambient, cinematic soundscaping is paramount to the album, offering subtle and absorbing textures across each of the tracks. However, it is the chemistry that Anna and Aisling have created collectively that is truly remarkable, at times breathtakingly so, as with the two current favourites pieces, the emotionally charged Ocean and submersive Underwater.
Before concluding, and so as not to paint too ambient a picture, the album does contain a couple of uptempo pieces, located in the middle section of the album, Resistance with its hauntingly familiar keyboard melody and bouncy Into The Deep. Looks like I got to use most of my jotted words after all .
AVA have also taken their music on the road and still have a number of live UK dates this year. From the evidence of this rather dimly lit footage, from their support slot with Anathema last year, they are more than capable of bringing across the beauty of their music in a live environment.
As always when the review is finished, there’s a natural curiosity to see if other reviewers share your thoughts. I was therefore a little surprised to find virtually no reviews of Waves on the Internet. Alas the vagaries of the music industry and music press! The lack of such reviews however should not deter you from seeking out this rather special album.
01. Waves (4:26)
02. In Motion (4:04)
03. To Be Alone (3:40)
04. Ocean (4:51)
05. Voyager (3:58)
06. Resistance (4:10)
07. Into The Deep (3:27)
08. Deep Blue (6:08)
09. Mudholland (4:21)
10. Underwater (3:21)
Total Time – 42:26
Anna Phoebe – Violin
Aisling Brouwer – Piano
Nicholas Holland – Cello (track 7)
Record Label: Little Indian Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 12th July 2019