Anni Hogan | Lost in Blue
Cold Spring (LP/CD/DL)
Seminal yet brand-new. Since the mid 80’s producer/musician Anni Hogan has been one of those collaborative musicians often subsumed into others’ work, but here on Lost in Blue, her first solo album since 2011 (and only her third overall) she is at the center of each of many new collaborations. She is known for her work with Scanner, Gavin Friday, Lydia Lunch and most famously with Marc & the Mambas (the record was aptly co-produced by Dave Ball). This is a harrowingly emotional rollercoaster, sort of a post-goth version of Lady Sings the Blues (Billie Holiday), redux and updated for a contemporary ear.
Opening with Lost Somewhere, the slithering rhythm harnesses something between a Celtic dirge and a broken serenade to lost love. Hogan’s vocal is sweet, and unusually youthful, honest in its delivery. The instrumentation here falls between a lullaby, post-rock and a dusty lunge act. My Career (w/Kid Congo on vocal) oozes similarities to work by Tom Waits, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – dank with poker-faced spoken word, you can almost envision smoke rings as the horns toot, and the jazz drumkit keeps a steady beat as backing vocal ‘doot-da-doot-da-doot’ awakening a stylish old school vibe. Congo talks about the big city experience, being a weirdo, trying to fit in on the edge.
As Richard Strange (Doctors of Madness) croons over the sweet trumpet on Death Bed Diva the album truly begins to come alive, but in my head I see stage performers in short conceptual vignettes, each track nicely building upon the larger unfolding drama. His style is between crooner, beat poet and lounge singer, with aching breaks. A perfect preamble into Silk Paper (feat. Wolfgang Flür), the piano is delightful, bright and loose, and the vocal delivery continues in similar style. Though here Flür known best for his work as one of the original members of Kraftwerk, and for his electro-techno-pop solo sounds like he’s orating from a dramatic script, of Nosferatu. There are inflections of Angelo Badalementi here and there, the Lounge Lizards – I can feel the atmosphere, thick with nu-beat energy.
Hogan has truly made something timeless and visual from sounds drenched in the intrigue of the “ghosts of Bacon” and jazzy flourishes that recall detective stories with a lurid neon glow. The singers chosen, from Lydia Lunch to Celine Hispiche to Scarlet West each bring their personal edgy styles, red-eyed narration, and a certain vintage wink to the whole concept. I’m surprised that Hogan only features her own vocal sparingly, a voice that has some in common with a sunny cross between Anita O’Day and Françoise Hardy. Her pieces Lost Somewhere and Thunderstruck each have an elegant floating quality and are my two favorites on the album by far – though they are pleasantly abetted by the air of the darker vocal performances elsewhere here.
On Angels Gavin Friday delivers a striking vocal singing of the waltz between life and death. It’s likely the closest to pop that this record gets, in this vapourous space between the more romantic side of his own work with a highly rhythmic flow and a clash of jazz, classical – all haunted by Avalon-era Roxy Music, as he repeats “there’s no tomorrow, just here today…” A real melodic gem.
Finally, Hogan ends her triumphant release with the title track, sung by John Fiddler who has an eerie resemblance to John Lennon at the back of his tone. Lost In Blue sounds like a blues-rock anthem, a departure from the more beatnik side, and more to the Earthy pulses spotted throughout. One might easily mistake this for one of those Jeff Beck or Jackson Browne country-fried style dittys lost to time. But as he sings “let’s get high tonight, on the edge of the sky tonight” you can imagine pulling down the shades after a long day in a dusty field, and just then the sunset imposes its glory.