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Toronto, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Toronto, Canada | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Duo Folk Experimental




"Quietus - Sallows"

I'm not normally one for the tacky clichés of love at first sight, but I can make exceptions: there are undoubtedly times when I've met someone, or heard the first notes of a record, and immediately understood that something wonderful and serendipitous is happening. Sallows, the debut album from Toronto-based Anamai (otherwise known as Anna Mayberry of noise-punkers HSY), is one of those records.

On the surface, it might be tough to explain such a profound reaction. Sallows certainly doesn't mess too much with pre-existing formulas: sombre, low-tuned electric guitar and hushed multi-tracked vocals unspool delicately into pools of reverb; the progress is glacial throughout, the atmosphere morose. The most immediate reference point is the work of Liz Harris/Grouper, who does similarly wonderful and dolorous things with much the same musical ingredients.

And yet while Harris' influence is clearly present, along with that of the Cocteau Twins and other mid-80s 4AD acts, closer listening reveals Sallows to be unique enough to avoid suffering from those comparisons, or coming across like a retread. Above all, it benefits from a feeling of proximity and directness: where Harris' voice is murky and distant, lost in the fog, Mayberry cuts through the gloom forcefully. The guitar parts have a similarly punchy bluesiness to them, albeit at funereal pace: where Harris and others thrive on the ambiguous or ethereal, Mayberry goes for the jugular.

This balancing act between the fleshy and the vaporous benefits from beautifully nuanced and sympathetic production by Dave Psutka, whose solo output under the name Egyptrixx treads a conceptually similar line between ghostly washes of synth noise and oppressive bass weight. His superb 2013 album A/B Til Infinity combines gruesomely propulsive techno with richly glossy drones, and remains one of the most bafflingly under-appreciated electronic records of recent years. Since then, follow-up album Transfer Of Energy (Feelings Of Power) and his forays into digitally-augmented post-punk with Hiawatha have demonstrated a startling breadth of skills, all crushed steel and sinewy textures.

His work on Sallows is even more intriguing: where Psutka's other releases have been high-resolution and powerful whatever idiom he's working in, here the sound is deliciously restrained and inviting. Limpid splashes of spring reverb and tape delay cloak Mayberry's guitar chords, teetering on the edge of feedback and merging with layers of shifting, softly metallic drones. The effect is simultaneously becalming and impassive, as inscrutable as a desert landscape.

Mayberry's voice sits in the middle, surrounded by the production but never overwhelmed by it. Multi-tracked throughout, her vocal harmonies loop around each other deftly, her phrasing and delivery strongly reminiscent of Joanna Newsom in places. Again though, there's enough about Sallows to avoid it feeling too beholden to its influences. Mayberry's voice is anchored by wordless, breathy coos rather than Newsom's idiosyncratic flutters, and capable of a quiet and uncompromising menace. She makes Sallows feel lived-in and direct, its emotional impact unvarnished and hard-earned.

The album's lyrics mirror this, dealing less in knotty metaphors than in direct gut-punches. Opening track 'Lucia' sets the tone ("You let me down sometimes, and only I know how"), before the album's most bruising moment arrives on 'Abris'. Against a backdrop of almost impossibly wistful harmonies, Mayberry makes oblique reference to losing someone in the depths of winter, and asserts that "with one word, I could change your mind". Her defiance sounds hollow though, as if she doesn't quite believe the words as she sings them. A brief cadence, a barely-audible sigh: "Yeah, we'll go on without it" she shrugs, her resignation utterly heart-breaking.

Elsewhere, Mayberry's voice beguiles and unsettles. 'Black Crow' is a blues for dimly-lit carparks and electricity substations, its bleak drones and reverberant drums perfectly augmented by Mayberry's keening and wordless calls. 'Dirt' is as murky as its name suggests, and perhaps the album's high point: "I won't be your brother" she mutters with grim resilience, "I can't recall all the melodies like I used to". The song grinds to a halt amid rasping moans and discordant clangs of guitar, as if clogged with mulch. As the album winds to a close, it feels like Mayberry is returning this music to the same waterlogged soil she dug it from.

In all honesty, part of me worries a little that I've become too fond of Sallows: that for whatever reason I've listened to it with the same uncritical ear I'd reserve for the work of a close friend. And yet maybe that's part of its charm: with Sallows, Mayberry and Psutka have crafted something deeply human and eerily, beautifully contradictory, like meeting someone you already know for the very first time. - The Quietus

"FACT Mag - 50 Best Albums of 2015"

Anna Mayberry’s songs were already gorgeous before she asked Dave Psutka (aka Egyptrixx) to lend a hand with production, so Psutka must have realised he could keep his involvement to a bare minimum. We’re left with a record of restrained, misty ambience backed by electronic elements which are barely even audible, as Mayberry’s voice guides us through the fog and Psutska’s treatments offer cracks of colored light. For anyone eagerly awaiting a new Grouper record, Sallows will slake your thirst. - FACT Mag

"Pitchfork - Sallows"

As a singer in HSY, Anna Mayberry’s ornery snarl usually gets washed into the background. The Toronto noise band's sludge-punk clamor reaches volumes that rival METZ or Cellphone (Toronto has proven in recent years to excel in producing impressively loud acts), and the cacophony might not always offer the greatest support for a multifaceted voice like Mayberry’s. Her nuanced tone is buried even further under the primal shouts of lead singer, Jude, but if you listen beneath the din, it's clear that Mayberry actually has an exquisite voice. You can't help but wonder what it would sound like front and center.

Enter her other project ANAMAI, which is, in some respects, the polar opposite of HSY. Originally an outlet for Mayberry’s solo songs, ANAMAI came to fruition when she met electronic artist and producer David Psutka, a.k.a. Egyptrixx, whose background in London dance music places him far outside of Mayberry’s universe. But the two have found a common ground, and Mayberry’s solo project has evolved into a duo. Together, Mayberry and Egyptrixx have taken her ideas and formed songs rich with texture and palpable kinetic power. Their debut full-length, Sallows, is nothing like their main projects, focusing on an eerie experimental folk that brings a new kind of heaviness to Mayberry’s vocals.

To make way for Mayberry’s rippling voice, songs are kept rather sparse. Fingerpicked electric guitars are given space to swell up with each note, mingling with Mayberry’s echoes into a thick fog. Sometimes, drums and tambourines enter the picture, giving songs like "Everyone" and "Black Crow" more movement, but ANAMAI have established an inherently deliberate pace. On "Half", Mayberry languidly draws out a story of a potential romance over six minutes of a metronomic drone. Intermittently, she replaces choruses with one-liners like "We kill time," sung with an ominous gravity. Sallows also includes three tracks from ANAMAI’s 2013 self-titled EP—"Mute Flames", "Altar Coals" and "Black Crow"—and they are the album’s most propulsive moments, polished and amplified to align with the whole.

With almost every song purposefully crossing the five-minute mark, Psutka's feel for atmosphere comes into play. Mayberry’s dirges come couched in cinematic settings that recall the early-rock'n'roll darkness of Timber Timbre. On "Mute Flames", Mayberry’s fragmented phrases are placed beneath a swirling scrim of alien sounds. ANAMAI's ambitions lie in the same vein as Grouper or Julianna Barwick, and while they haven't mastered the mood in one swift endeavor, they haven't deviated too far from the template. ANAMAI may not be as pummelling as a HSY record, but their metaphysical weight makes up for it, producing an even more striking result than Mayberry’s other band. - Pitchfork

"Now Magazine - Album of the Week - Sallows"

There's a distinct déjà vu quality to Anna Mayberry's dreamy vocals in her solo project, Anamai, and yet no immediate comparisons come to mind. A press release suggests Chelsea Wolfe and Weyes Blood as kindred spirits, but Anamai's debut LP - the product of HSY's Mayberry and Egyptrixx's David Psutka - is more elusive and subtle, with a heavy drone-induced weight that comfortably settles in the back of your throat. This sense of familiarity and uniqueness is why Sallows instantly resonates, while maintaining its mystery listen after listen.

Each track is a deliberate experiment in maximalist and minimalist songwriting. Mayberry's languid vocals are layered and echoed as they float alongside delicate fingerpicking, booming solitary drums and the odd tambourine. Yet a lush backdrop of otherworldly effects is always filling in the landscape.

For now, Mayberry may be better known as the husky voice of HSY, but it's with Anamai that she's truly getting at her roots. - Now Magazine


Sallows - LP, Album - Buzz Records - BR022 - 2015
S/T - Cass, S/Sided, EP - Buzz Records - 2013



the experimental folk project of Anna Mayberry (HSY) and David Psutka
(Egyptrixx, Hiawatha, Ceramic TL). Existing in the unsettled space between
ancient past and imagined future, ANAMAI explores the contradictory nature of intimacy by releasing quiet
confessions in a vast, amorphous lake of noise. Naked, resonant minimalism;
ethereal and liquid.  Chambered vocals and droning guitars lap each
other up while looming silence threatens to extinguish them.


Their debut full-length record, Sallows, released on Buzz Records
(03/10) demonstrates Anna’s and David's inventive way of using frequency to
create parallel yet dichotomizing space. The album finds a way to entrance the
listener with an almost dreary, unforgiving weight.


Selected Press:

Songs rich with texture and palpable kinetic power - Pitchfork

Something deeply human
and eerily, beautifully contradictory, like meeting someone you already know
for the very first time. - The Quietus

voice guides us through the fog and Psutska’s treatments offer cracks of
colored light – FACT Magazine

spacious folk - Stereogum

words stretch and recline, hanging in the air like plumes of smokeThe FADER

A celestial sound that is both
heavenly and dense - Impose

instantly resonates, while maintaining its mystery listen after listen – NOW Magazine

Band Members