A friend of mine once described an artist we both liked to have “the voice of one thousand caves.” I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but it’s a phrase I kept returning to when Anna B Savage’s debut album A Common Turn was released in January 2021. On the eyebrows of the pandemic – after a few false starts – her voice cut through the clamour of reactionary noise with an exceptional depth and richness. It afforded a grandeur to the smallest memory which Savage seemed able to summon and dissect at will, reaching back into the echoing chambers of time with an archer’s precision to harvest the moment’s tenderness, and dance around it. A Common Turn didn’t invite a common response, nor write the manifesto for fragility; it played like conversations between friends around a dinner table – some funny and some painful, some bellowed and some whispered – some still working it out, and helping you work it out too.
With Savage’s second album, in|Flux, it’s hard to believe how much more there was to share. Her self-professed therapy record in conversation with Loud and Quiet, it’s a billboard for the non-linear persistence needed to find out about yourself, and more so to then accept that person. Maybe even like them. Where A Common Turn was thorough and uncomfortably searching, in|Flux has a deep committal to itself in response. Equal strands of kindness and contentedness run through its sadness. At times Savage is willing to accept dissatisfaction, speculating on ‘Crown Shyness’ where species of trees grow tall but never cross branches, “I guess we’ve grown up the same way too.” At other times she revels in communicative pleasure, cutting through the background of percussive, ASMR-ready panting in ‘Pavlov’s Dog’ with ecstatic refrain: “I’m here, I’m waiting, I’m salivating.”
As with A Common Turn, there are moments where the sound runs shoulder-to-shoulder with luminary singer-songwriters (the quiet orchestration of Elliott Smith and the bright baroque arrangements of Nick Drake) and moments where its shuddering electronics envelope the lot. The best part come when the two push and pull at each other. The title track begins in soft conflict with an emotionally manipulative partner, Savage’s voice contemplative, before unfurling into fake orgasms and hair rock screams above Mike Lindsay’s four-to-the-floor production. The stark ‘Touch Me’ begins too with threadbare guitar and vocal samples, before her voice twirls like a party streamer over skulking synths, lamenting her nonsensical lust for heartache: “this is the best bit, isn’t it?”
“But if this is all that there is,” Savage concludes in the Wendy Cope-inspired album closer ‘The Orange’, “I think I’m gonna be fine.” It’s an open-ended gratification that comforts each track and affords the album’s doubts a remarkable and generous lucidity. One thing’s certain is that Anna B Savage is a timeless voice – a voice of one thousand caves – and in|Flux has all the makings of one of the first great albums of the year.
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