New Zealand born Hannah Curwood is due to release her eponymous debut album in May of this year. Citing artist such as PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Kate Bush, Curwood’s influences are easily discernible throughout the album. With a crystal clear voice in the upper registers, and an otherworldly soundscape lingering in the background, Hannah in the Wars’ first release is an intriguing and well-made album. It also has the proud boast of being produced by Rodger O’Donnell of The Cure, a man who is rapturous in his praise of the Kiwi singer, and even offed up his home studio to record the album.
Curwoods inspiration for the album came from a variety of sources. In her own words: “This album was written amidst a complex tapestry of events. A profound existential, spiritual and psychological crisis of a family member, terrifying, brutal and bewildering in intensity was accompanied by the agonising death knells and eventual shattering of a romantic relationship that had spanned many years, the deconstruction of a home”.
A tall order indeed; but it absolutely works. She also mentions the earthquakes of 2011 as being a major factor in tailoring this album out of her own experiences. Interestingly, the idea of an earthquake is clearly heard, in fact, it is one of the first things that come to mind when listening to it. The feeling of something once thought fundamentally stable and reliable, suddenly becoming volatile and unpredictable is a common theme throughout the album.
‘Sweet Release’ is a thoughtful tune, beguiling in its simplicity. The smooth violins at the heart of the piece, gives a bizarre sense of unease, despite the lulling tempo. The song, lyrically and musically, gives a feeling of agelessness to Curwoods vocal quality. However, the halting, breathy nature of the chorus brings it right into the modern era. The violin solo has echoes of the style of Warren Ellis (of the Bad Seeds).
‘Burning through the Night’ is a slower burner, but builds to a pacing crisis at the close of the song. The introduction is subdued musically speaking, which allows Curwoods unique vocal quality to shine. The towering piano chords during the instrumental gives an anthemic feel to the song, which is strengthened by the repeated chorus ‘Burning through the night, burning through the night…’. The overarching effect of the song is one that could have been written by Nick Cave, but sung by Kate Bush.
Some records , or books for that matter, are a bit like All Bran cereal; it’s good for you, but you don’t enjoy it. This is the polar opposite. Clever, in a way that is inviting, not exclusive, and interesting in a way that doesn’t leave you cold. Incidentally, these are attributes shared by her previously stated influences. With dark, edgy lyrics, light-fingered melodies and a haunting voice, Hannah in the Wars is an artist (and an album) which would prove wonderful company on a solitary car journey.