With summer dim on the horizon, Los Angeles-based ensemble Annabel (lee) welcome the lengthening nights of autumn with one last EP before finalizing their third full-length album for the new year. Working again in conjunction with Brooklyn/LA syndicate Youngbloods, writer & singer Sheila Brown Ellis, with her husband, composer & producer Richard Ellis, reveal the roots of their signature brand of Noir Jazz as they spend this October briefly peering into their past. Exercising their skills as band leaders, Richard and Sheila deliver a specular after-hour sermon on the power of mutual bonds and the fruits of collaborative creativity, trading roaming acoustic guitar leads for authoritative striding bass lines and dark strings for the orchard whistles of song birds and flutes.
Across their discography, the Ellis’ work has been largely developed in private and underlined by a sense of isolation. Both full-length solo efforts, “By the Sea… And Other Solitary Places” (Ninja Tune, 2015) and “The Cleansing” (Youngbloods, 2017) were heralded for their deeply personal lyricism and compelling, vacant soundscapes. In contrast, “I Came Across A Dreamer” works outside of Annabel (lee)’s usual Baroque framework, having been built from recordings that predate both LPs and feature collaborations traversing the span of their career.
Opening up like dawn, the slow burning “Circles” is built on an instrumental piece initially assembled by Japanese improv Jazz Electronica outfit Novo Tempo, led by Tokyo DJ and Blue Cafe label head Shohei Mitani. Clever re-arrangement by Richard and peripheral instrumentation added from prolific British saxophonist Jake Telford create a suitable foundation for the enchanting richness of Sheila’s vocals, swimming in sweet interplay with Mitani’s languid piano and Telford’s seductive riffs.
Entering the familiar smoky abandon of speakeasy Jazz, “Glow” sees Sheila's voice draped in the grain of streetlight fog, crooning, channeling her years working the New York City Jazz club circuit. Featuring German producer and arranger Christoph Isermann, the unhurried groove makes a mirthless nod towards the allure of nightlife, swelling with passion before crying out in a fading stained-glass choir.
Concluding in a celestial collaboration with, and in memory of, late friend and composer Alex Janz, “Lovers’ Wings” is a gentle dance amongst the clouds playfully speaking to the strength and bliss of partnership, in both music and life. A notable shift in Annabel (lee)’s traditional tone, the romantic ballad drowns out concern with the soothing acoustic comfort of a garden in blossom.
While each composition is a product of differing times and tribulations, they are bound together by the necessity of connection and uncovering common ground. The succinct journey contained within is a winding road taking Annabel (lee) though vast eras of Avant-garde musics and cerebral Downtempo experiments, exposing the formula of influences that ultimately brought us to the fusion of Psyche-Folk and Noir Jazz that they have made their own.
released October 26, 2018
"Glow" is dedicated to the memory of Frank Gutch, Jr.
"Lovers’ Wings" is dedicated to the memory of Alex Janz
All songs written by Sheila Brown-Ellis and produced by Richard Ellis
"Circles" features additional writing by Akimasa Yamada, with Saxophone contributions performed by Jake Telford
"Glow" features additional writing by Christoph Isermann
"Lovers’ Wings" features additional writing by Alex Janz
Mastered by Steve Kitch at Audiomaster in London
Cover Photo captured by Richard Ellis
Layout and design by Nicholas Concklin
Executive Produced by John Moses and Nicholas Concklin
All music published by Ninja Tune Publishing (PRS)
supported by 17 fans who also own “I Came Across A Dreamer”
Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell