Amber Arcades | Moth Club | 20 October 2016
Photo credit: Nick Helderman
Annelotte de Graaf isn’t one for half measures. She’s worked at the United Nations. She’s well on her way to becoming a fully qualified lawyer. And she’s used all her life savings to record an album in New York.
So when it comes to taking her songs on the road, there’s no compromise. Unlike so many artists touring their debut LP, there’s no drum machine, no backing tracks, no half-arsed approximations. Instead she’s assembled a full band – second guitar, keys, bass, and drums – who perfectly capture the spirit of Amber Arcades’ gorgeous ‘Fading Lines’.
The inviting ‘Come With Me’ emerges, fully formed, from a haze of chiming guitars and swirling drums. The enigmatic ‘I Will Follow’ glistens in response. The woozy ‘Constant’s Dream’ lives up to its name, with the sparse instrumentation giving de Graaf’s voice the space to shine. Contrasting a driving beat with shimmering synths and a distant vocal, ‘Turning Light’ epitomises early-morning jet lag. And ‘Apophenia’ – lush and exquisite – may just as well be a synonym for “ethereal”.
It’s not all dreamscapes though. The album – and tonight’s set – is one of light and shade, with ‘This Time’ (all ‘Faith’-era Cure jangle) and the propulsive, self-assured title track cutting through the sonic mist. So too does the biggest surprise of the night: a complete transformation of Nick Drake’s stark one-man-and-his-acoustic-guitar ballad ‘Which Will’. Reimagined as an upbeat, poppy tune – with brief moments of quiet introspection – under de Graaf’s spell, it gains the same air of mystery that underlies the Amber Arcades sound.
“It was a magical time,” de Graaf has said of making ‘Fading Lines’. “Writing an album had been an abstract thing in my mind and recording it in New York had been a wild, surreal plan.”
And now she’s sharing that magic – which remains very much intact – with audiences night after night. Her wild, surreal plan has truly come to fruition.