NEW ALBUM: ‘ACCA’ – OUT NOW
‘ACCA’, the much-praised new album from Paris-based Londoner ALA.NI is out now, available to stream in full from here. Featuring guest spots from fans of hers including Iggy Pop and Lakeith Stanfield (Uncut Gems, Atlanta), the album includes recent 6Musicand 1Xtra-supported single ‘Papa’ – watch the official video – co-directed by BAFTA-winner Martina Amati – here.
Written & recorded almost entirely a cappella (with no use of loops or sampling), the album is the follow-up to her widely praised debut ‘You & I’, which picked up airplay across 6Music, also securing ALA.NI other famous fans amongst the likes of David Lynch, David Byrne and Jean-Baptiste Mondino.
A powerful vision of modern womanhood, ‘ACCA’ is unflinching in its account of pain, anger and growth. Written on the road in spots including Paris, Mexico, Los Angeles, the UK and New York, ALA.NI created the album by layering up hundreds of vocal tracks, some of which imitate the sounds of instruments, building a hypnotic world blurring the lines between vibrating vocal cords, bowed strings, and blown reeds. Written – as with ‘You & I’ – a cappella, with ‘ACCA’ ALA.NI pushes a vocals-only technique to its furthest possibilities. “It was all pretty lo-fi on my end,” she says; “I didn’t record to a click, I didn’t use a tuner; I’d just press record and lay down whatever came out.” In places, beatboxing serves as percussion, in others ALA.NI lowered her vocals using an octaviser to create the illusion of bass. Elsewhere, the album’s percussive elements have been created using beer bottles and tennis balls, ALA.NI’s own body and the studio walls.
The spectral shuffle of album-opener ‘Differently’ signals the evolution of an artist some distance removed from the bruised torch songs of ‘You & I’. As does the startling appearance of Iggy Pop – whom ALA.NI tapped for a guest spot following airplay on his 6Music radio show – intoning French poetry on the playful ‘Le Diplomate’. Many of the songs found on ‘ACCA’ began life as poems, with tunes that twist and turn, ALA.NI often writing from the standpoint of others. The doo-wop of ‘Hide’ freights a counsel to a friend in an abusive relationship, whilst ‘Papa’ wears its emotional baggage with pride. The lurching tension of ‘Van P’ – a track originally written for Vanessa Paradis – is ratcheted by an appearance from Uncut Gems’ Lakeith Stanfield.
When ALA.NI’s debut came out, comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland were quick, but her music reflects a far more complex influence and experience. Born in London to Grenadian-immigrant parents (her mother a couture seamstress, her dad a reggae bassist), ALA.NI’s great uncle, Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, was one of Britain’s most popular singers in the 1920s, also lover to Cole Porter. A talented dancer, ALA.NI loved Julie Andrews and the ballet, but was told in no uncertain terms that as a young black girl, those things weren’t meant for her. Graduating from Sylvia Young, ALA.NI worked as a backup vocalist, performing with the likes of Mary J Blige, Andrea Bocelli and Damon Albarn. ‘You & I’ triggered ALA.NI’s debut on Jools Holland, also bills shared with Rufus Wainwright and the Dance Theater of Harlem, and sets at New York’s Lincoln Centre & David Lynch’s Silencio club.