Music Reviews

Anni Rossi Afton

(4AD) Rating - 7/10

Afton, the debut 4AD release from Anni Rossi, establishes the 22 year old Minnesotan as the newest talent in American alternative music. With original composition and organic sonority, Rossi mixes her classically trained singing and viola playing with a wide range of woodwinds, paced rhythms and string instruments in Afton, proving that she is worthy to brush elbows with Beirut, Minotaur Shock, and Blonde Redhead on the 4AD roster.

Machine starts the EP with Anni’s viola playing, the self proclaimed centerpiece of her music. Her viola playing is varied, sometimes sharp and punctuated with dissonant notes, other times silky and erudite. The ease with which other instruments are blended into her style is notable, whether it’s clarinet in Venice, or organ in Ecology, the different layers of sound are seamless, almost bestowing a ‘band’ feel to the music.

Rossi uses an impressive amplitude for her vocal composition, and she’s able to produce different vocal harmonies together with the instrumental chord progressions. Her singing isn’t the focus of the music, but rather works as an equal part of the many instrumental layers. Downtempo rhythm enters the fusion in West Coasts and Wheelpusher, and tremendous effort was put into the percussion, making it interesting on its own and staying away from overused quaternary rhythms.

Classically trained since the age of three, Rossi is now based in Chicago, IL and tours as a solo artist. Afton was mostly recorded in 2006, and the tracks previously have been available on Anni’s Myspace page or on limited releases. The collected songs don’t feel too different from each other, and the total 20-minute experience feels complete. Rossi is now working on her debut album at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini, to be released in March, 2009.

Influences in Afton range from folk music to classical to rock and roll, spanning decades and genres. However, Rossi genuinely achieves a style of her own, in her plucked viola playing and in her multi-instrumental composition, while maintaining a pleasant, contained approach to her combination of sonorities. The music is rich with personality, and strives to establish uniqueness and incomparability.

Coming to a close with Central Utah, an almost concerto-style track with semi-orchestral backing, Afton leaves us thinking ‘over already?’, and leaves a promise of future delights from Anni Rossi, carving a space for her musical expertise and talent, with arguments to spare. Anni Rossi is a rising star, and those who want to listen to something different and be surprised should get the EP here.