Personnel: Anna Calvi (vocals, guitar, vibraphone); Daniel Maieleu Wood (guitar, marimba, drums, percussion, background vocals); Mally Hargaz (dulcimer, harmonium, vibraphone, marimba); Arthur Busby, Hayden Oliver, Jennifer Sweetmen (violin); Kristi Swanson, Lisamarie Vana, Dimitry Kustanovich (viola); Buffi Jacobs, Valerie Tatge (cello); John Baggot (piano, prepared piano, organ, synthesizer); Chad Stockslager (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: John Congleton.
Recording information: Black Box Recording Studio.
Photographer: Roger Deckker.
On her 2011 Mercury-nominated debut, bewitching, guitar-slinging Brit Anna Calvi delivered enough atmosphere to terraform her own planet. Elegant and poised, yet undeniably coiled and ready to strike at the first sign of a threat, songs like "Desire," "Suzanne & I," and "Blackout" sounded like a radio caught between Roy Orbison's "Crying" and PJ Harvey's "Man-Sized." One Breath, her intoxicating sophomore outing, picks right up where her eponymous first impression left off, offering up a pair of fevered, reverb-drenched, bordello-rock gems in "Suddenly" and "Eliza," before shifting gears with the icy and elliptical "Piece by Piece," one of several tracks that owe more than a cursory nod to the punchy, overcast minimalism of late-period Scott Walker. Calvi's more comfortable with pushing the envelope this time around, and One Breath feels like the work of an artist who has been given (or has at least given herself) carte blanche. Songs like "Cry," with its explosive blasts of Carlos Alomar-borne feedback, the hypnotic "Bleed into Me," which sounds like Jeff Buckley taking on King Crimson's "Matte Kudasai," and the nervy, incredibly intimate title track, may mine different areas of the sonic map, but they remain firmly entrenched in the ever-expanding Anna Calvi universe. Having eschewed much of the cavernous chamber pop of her debut for more challenging yet no less rewarding fare, Calvi's less adventurous fans may find themselves at a loss as to how to process it all, but there's something both immaculate and broken about One Breath that ultimately transcends its more difficult moments. ~ James Christopher Monger