A Book of Songs for Anne Marie isn’t technically a new album – the more avid of Dee fans may have even owned a copy of this from as early as 2004 when it was first issued on David Tibet’s Durtro label. However, this initial release was limited to a mere 150 copies and recorded briskly once through on the piano; the fact that A Book Of Songs… has now been granted a more thorough recording process and distribution means that it’s more than justified to refer to this as its first proper release.
Considering that these songs are amongst her most beautiful compositions in years, why they’ve been allowed to lay dormant for so long is mighty puzzling. The more theatrical execution of 2008’s Safe Inside the Day has been discarded in favour of the dainty romance that dominated her earlier output, with gorgeous chord cycles that loop endlessly and weave and entwine with the strings and woodwind that drift alongside. Dee’s voice has never felt more at home, rising into heartfelt climax and falling back into barely whispered murmurs in response to every dynamic flex the tracks throw out. She is on phenomenal form here.
The way in which this album has been constructed allows these vocal fluctuations to clash and flow and juxtapose in a fascinating fashion, and it’s the pairing of “Lilacs” and “Unheard Of Hope” that has the most demonstrative impact. The former dances in the full bloom of joyous emotion and spritely tempo, whilst the latter sounds so devastated, with just three piano chords striking between a heavy, saddened silence of loss. Intentionally or not, the transition is the sound of the blissful love being cruelly snatched away, and concisely captures Dee’s range of emotional provocation.
It’s great to see the harp taking a more prominent role as instrumental keystone, too. The difference in her compositional approach between harp and piano is clear, with more of an aqueous flow blurring the chord changes, and shimmering reverb making it sound as though the instrument is weeping out into empty space. Admittedly a couple of the harp-based pieces do sound rather similar to each other on initial listens, but their distinguished voices eventually surface over time.
It’s a beautiful record. Clearly, time has been taken to ensure that these tracks finally get the treatment they deserve; accompanying instrumentation has been carefully arranged, and whilst it’s been many years since these songs were first conceived, Dee’s vocal performance proves that they’ve lost not a single drop of poignancy, immovably resting within her soul the entire time.