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Radar Reviews: Anna Westin – ‘Incense Ascending’

Anti trafficking, educational lecturing, synthesizing trauma, literature and philosophy are just a handful of the themes and influences behind ‘LEV’, the upcoming new album by The JAM Network UK’s chair head Anna Westin, who invites you on an emotional journey through detailed Alternative Folk soundscapes with rich, radiant production and melancholic, Blues-oriented instrumentation as soon as the album arrives on Friday, March 25th.

Drawing from elements of contemporary folk, world fusion and traditional Swedish/Irish/Jewish classical music to tell her story, Westin promises to cut deeply to the core of morality and nature throughout the Covid-19 pandemic on the highly sought new release. However, with so many themes to explore in her wide array of textures, does Westin have the musicianship to tie these themes up neatly together as to not scatter them all over the page like one of her notebooks full of rough drafts of poems? Thankfully, the answer, according to the stats of recent single ‘Incense Ascending’, seems to be a resounding nod.

The track listing for ‘LEV’ boasts a merticulously crafted assortment of nine tracks that were co-produced by Voka Gentle’s Ellie and Imogen Mason, and mixed by Marcus Hamblett (Villagers, The Staves, This Is The Kit), with vast collaborations with featured guests including Rob Pemberton, Joane Clara and Helen Whitaker. Named after the Hebrew word for ‘Heart’ – the album is a showcase for singles like ‘Incense Ascending’ that promise to guide you through a picture-esque series of landscapes adorned with a lush and vivid style of production details. ‘Incense Ascending’ maintains this intimate Folk style that takes a few cues from Shoegaze and Dream Folk, while exploring what lies beneath Westin’s vocal blend of ethereal strength and humble vulnerability with a chilling Piano bed that floats above the gloomy Strings.

Reflecting on how she tied up the differing themes that she explores in ‘LEV together cohesively, the UK and Canada-based Alternative Folk indie songstress says, “A lot of the songs are about mortality, and this sense of transcendence that collides with the everyday mundane. This is particularly influenced by my work with Jewish philosopher Lévinas and French philosopher Ricœur“, in a press statement.

While not massively upbeat, ‘Incense Ascending’ feels like it narrates you through a story with a hopeful note to end with because the textures feel quite pastoral, as if the Spring is coming to bring warmth to the cold winter. The tune begins with some delicate acoustic guitar strums that feel like they are kept simple and to the point, making it easy to think the track is quite accessible to a wide mainstream audience. Westin clearly recalls influences like Bjork and Laura Marling in her vocals, that are unsullied by even the slightest touch of editing or audo-tune effects. It complements the vibe with a neat swoop of emotion, where the vocals feel raw and realistic in terms of evoking her vulnerability and her true feelings as she waits for “Peace to rise up from the ground, like incense” in the chorus. The instrumentation is reptitious, but it never becomes tedious as the vocals are purely the main emphasis from Westin. These lyrics, which are all about awaiting peace and letting solitude enhance your character, feel like they convey the strong characteristics of Westin’s activist work nicely as well. Overall, the track is a lovely slice of Acoustic Folk that brings many factors of Westin’s influences and personal character into the fray cohesively, and the lack of much real production feels like a welcome change of pace compared to some of her more commercial counterparts.

A sumptous treat for the ears that feels as unsullied by artiface as the very sublime snowflakes that fall from the sky in the coldest months, while also as soft vocally as the warm inside of a gooey chocolate brownie – ‘Incense Ascending’ is another step in the correct direction as the whimsical album of ‘LEV’ nears its imminent release – and I’m desperate to hear what’s in store.

Words by Jacob Braybrooke

Connect With Anna Westin

Visit Anna Westin’s official website here: https://www.annawestinmusic.com

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