Aniseed is standing on a water damaged desk in an abandoned office building, microphone in hand. The tiled ceiling has fallen through in places, exposing air ducts and wiring. The panels that dropped down are cracked and crumbled atop the stained old carpets. “They left all their paperwork” says Ani. “What would cause them to get up and never come back?”
Ani came to record sounds, and has spent the day walking around with a long mic trailed by a long cord. The office is beige and grey, but Ani is vibrant – messy pearlescent hair and a shirt covered in a pattern of miniature multi-coloured shirts. “I come to a lot of places like this. Even though nobody is here, there is a lot to hear.”
These sorts of inanimate sounds underpinned Ani’s own childhood in the rural throws of East Anglia. “I grew up in an old watermill. Sleeping, playing, eating, whatever. Everything was backed by that hiss of water and the creaks from the turning water wheel.”
These early memories have indelibly coloured Ani’s perception of music – through most of their work there is a distance to the compositions and something bubbling beneath the surface. “I like to blur the acoustic and the synthetic. There’s something about lo-fi recordings that creates a sort of shadow to the music. It lets you listen differently at different times.”
Ani takes a break from recording the ambient creakings of the collapsing cubicles and sits down on an overturned late-90s copy machine. “Sometimes I come out and record sounds really late at night. The whole world sounds different at night. There are sounds in the early hours that most of us never hear because we’re either too pissed or fast asleep.”
Opening up a rucksack, Ani produces two apples, a pack of clove cigarettes, and a bottle of Robinson’s squash (and sips without diluting). “I’ve always tried to spend as much time awake at night as I can. Growing up I always listened to music late into the night on my Walkman. I played The Best of Queen and Spice World by the Spice Girls over and over and over again.”
Cassette tapes played a major role in the shaping and development of their sound. Ani recalls discovering a trove of tapes in the late 90’s: “I found them [tapes] in a shoebox behind a park near where I grew up. Most of them were blank, but two contained voices from some sort of church service with organ music and lots of static”. Disembodied and without context, these recordings left an indelible mark on Ani, and became a sort of catalyst in their fascination with found voices and sampled conversations. “I almost like to believe somebody buried them there just for me. They knew I was coming to find them. That’s not the case obviously, but it would make my life seem less random.”
Ani was excited by music and in their early-to-mid teens taught themselves to play guitar, the piano, and a dozen or so other instruments (including the flugelhorn). The traditional “band” setup never suited Ani particularly well, and their early attempts at ensembles (Zebra Sage, Hessian Sex Mask, and Lesser Pharaohs) dissolved before producing any notable recordings. Ani eventually came to the realisation that their music could be made in solitude, without much expense or fanfare.
“My first attempts at preserving anything musically would have been on a hand-me-down PC from my neighbour, who was a retired engineer. It was a piece of shit though, constantly crashing. I had a bootlegged copy of Acid but no MIDI controller. I’d programme notes with mouse, one at a time”. Ani used this set up to start creating experimental, folk-inflected noise-scapes as well as convoluted mixtapes. Soon after, Ani began drip-feeding these recordings onto Soundcloud and also amassed a private library of hundreds of tracks.
After eating, Ani packs up and leaves the office block through a shattered ground floor bathroom window, carefully lowering themselves into the alley below. A short hop over a padlocked gate and Ani is hurrying down a city street in downtown Norwich. It’s raining quite heavily. A bit wet and winded, Ani arrives at the bus terminal and sits on a covered bench, waiting for the next service heading to the rural village they call home. “I’ve been writing a lot recently, lots of new stuff, but I wrote the songs on Geranium a year or so ago while I was working in a factory.” Ani sees their bus rounding the corner into the station. “I think they’ve probably replaced me with an automaton by now.”
There are four tracks on Aniseed’s EP “Geranium”. The Game with The Tin Cat provides an example of one of Ani’s more obscured sound-worlds, featuring an ebb and crackling that draws itself from those early memories of life in the water mill. The track Crabshells evolves from a collage of broken snares into a more solidly formed melody composed by blocks of repeating and overlapping guitars – reminiscent of early Bibio. Geranium Detector leaves with something more stripped back, working through snippets of dialogue and something akin to footsteps whilst a synthesizer unwinds above. Across all the tracks there is a commonality -- a feeling of delicately formed resolutions that are on the verge of falling apart.
The bus arrives. Ani boards and pays for a single ticket from a pocketful of small coins and then climbs to the second deck, sitting right at the front, forming a colourful silhouette behind the misted windscreen. Their finger traces some shapes onto the fogged glass, but the bus pulls out and rounds the corner before it can be deciphered.
There are people who can craft songs that sound and feel utterly and warmly beautiful. To me, one was Stevie Wonder, and one is now Kadhja Bonet.
Everything here is pure beauty: from Bonet's enchantingly soothing voice and wonderfully produced music, to the spellbinding, arcadian psych soul vibes that permeate the album, weaving 70s influences into something new and original.
This is a record that brings you heartwarming joy. One that takes you to a better place. muschiosauro
Very pleasant music that draws me in. I hear a kind of charm in many of Les' compositions (here and in his "Invisible Cities" album) -- along with quiet mysteries that don't need to be solved -- just enjoyed. Brian Flaherty