Powerdove is the solo project of Annie Lewandowski, a multi-instrumentalist who plays accordion in both ex-Deerhoof Chris Cohen’s California pop group The Curtains and chamber trio Doublends Vert. In 2110 she recorded a piano duet (Long as in Short, Walk as in Run) with guitarist Fred Frith. Neither instrument is credited on Powerdove Live, where Lewandowski mostly accompanies her own singing with guitar, sampler and Blister analog synth.
Coming after four full-length albums and a split release cassette it’s a limited edition EP-length CD-R on Wild Silence, a French ‘micro label’ run by Delphine Dora whose releases are all handmade, coming nicely packaged in card wallets with glossy dust jackets.
Here we have four tracks recorded at Tufts University, Massachusetts, in October 2015, and a fifth on which Lewandowski’s accompanied by Thomas Banvalet on amplified 6-string banjo and Chad Popple on percussion, vibraphone and tabla.
Carla Bozulich has taken a similar approach, touring solo with only the occasional associate for support, but Lewandowski’s art is more left-field and less earthy than Bozulich’s blues-rooted avant rock. Her song settings combine elements of alt. indie, chamber music and electronics.
“Do You Burn” is a song, but its setting is dominated by Lewandowski’s surprisingly noise-raw ‘Blister’ synth, the outputs of which are twitchy and atonal, excepting the significant injection of pure piping tones that shadow an elegiac lyric that mourns “fantasies I can’t shake”.
Low guitar introduces the doomy gothic murder narrative of “Resting Place”, here divested of the acoustic bass roots of the Be Mine album version, and made stranger by glitchy electronic infestation.
The most straightforward song, “Impact”, is the most spartan and faux-naive. Here Lewandowski’s haunting but clear and uninflected vocal is tracked only by uncredited piano – either an upright or subtly ‘prepared’, or both, with a long, atmospheric echoic decay that also seeps into urban/industrial and fly-past field recordings, which introduce and disrupt the otherwise unadorned acoustic guitar backing for “Wandering Jew – When You’re Near”.
Lewandowski’s song settings may be minimalist, but they are meticulously, individually distinctive and richly evocative.
Despite the singer’s introspective cast, these recitations cary surprising emotional weight. “How my blood burns to move”, sings Lewandowski on “Wandering Jew”; then “When you’re near / You make me steady”.
“Out on the Water – Paper Tiger” was recorded in France five months earlier than the other tracks. It carries traces of Nico, maybe, but the knotty, driving thrum of strings, tabla and handclap percussion, and the sonorous vibraphone interludes on “Paper Tiger”, have a vibrancy and positivity that Nico’s music never did.
The trio piece provides a condensed dramatic climax to an atmospheric, patiently crafted, pared and poetically evocative collection. Its brevity whets the appetite for more.
Annie Lewandowski – voice, sampler, guitar, analog synthesizer “blister” + (“Out on the Water – Paper Tiger” only) Thomas Banvalet – amplified 6-string banjo; Chad Popple – vibraphone, tabla, percussion.
Andie Brown & Sharon Gal – Mami Wata.
Jenny Hval & Susanna – Meshes of Voice.
Building Instrument / Stein Urheim & Mari Kvien Brunvoll – Kem Som Kan å Leve / For Individuals Facing the Terror of Cosmic Loneliness.
Buy Powerdove Live from Wild Silence Bandcamp.