Ahead of the release of her new album, The Art of Losing, The Anchoress unleashes a brand new duet with James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers. 'The Exchange' is the fourth track to be taken from The Art of Losing, the forthcoming second album from Welsh producer and multi-instrumentalist The Anchoress (aka Catherine Anne Davies), to be released on March 12th via Kscope on 2LP, CD, and 3CD limited edition hardback.
‘The Exchange’ is an epic dark-rock anthem featuring the powerhouse vocal of the Manics’ James Dean Bradfield in a duet that examines the destructive dynamic created by “a world that sees people as puppets rather than as human beings”. It is accompanied by a powerful video directed by young filmmaker JJ Eringa that explores the exploitation of a young woman trapped inside a purgatorial cycle. Davies says: “We wanted to make a bit of a homage to The Red Shoes. We follow her fate as she is forced to play piano until her hands bleed, only to be brought back to life time and time again when she collapses with exhaustion”.
Watch the video BELOW:
The new track is produced by Davies and mixed by Dave Eringa (Manics, Wilko Johnson). She says: “I was so lucky that James agreed to lend his vocal to this track. It was written as a duet that explores a toxic dynamic created by those that see people as puppets rather than as human beings. When I first pulled his vocal into the finished track I had one of those goosebump moments where you pinch yourself that one of your childhood idols is singing a song that I wrote. The power and emotion in his voice is what makes him one of my all-time favourite singers. He’s a very inquisitive and intelligent musician. The legend that is Sterling Campell (who played drums for David Bowie for decades) also very kindly agreed to guest on the track. He was a dream to work with and he nailed it straight away in a remote session from his studio in New York. We first met while I was touring in Australia and Sterling was also playing with the mighty B-52s. We struck up a friendship through Mario McNulty (also part of the Bowie cohort) and the rest is musical history…”
The new duet follows the BBC6 Music playlisted singles ‘Show Your Face’ and ‘The Art of Losing’ and recent appearance on Radio 4’s Front Row & Sunday Brunch. ‘Show Your Face’ spent 4 weeks on the station’s playlist, as well as being named in The Mail on Sunday’s ‘20 Best Songs of 2020’. Second single ‘The Art of Losing’ has also spent 3 weeks on the BBC 6Music playlist, as well as being named one of the Sunday Times Hottest Tracks. The album also entered the Amazon Hot New Releases pre-order sales chart at No.1.
Written and produced by Davies, ‘The Art of Losing’ album ambitiously navigates the detritus of death and the process of trying to climb out of it and make something from it. In the aftermath of several years of huge personal loss, after the untimely death of her father from an aggressive brain tumour, undergoing treatment for cervical cancer, and navigating baby loss and multiple surgeries, the record follows Dylan Thomas’ instruction to “rage against the dying of the light”. And there is nothing sonically “gentle” about its enquiry. But despite the unhappy backdrop to its composition, the album is a far from dour affair. Rather, the fourteen tracks create a technicolour eruption of emotions, firmly concerned with how to find purpose in the midst of grief: “What did you learn when life was unkind? Was there some purpose to losing my mind?”, she asks.
The title of the record was inspired by the opening line of the Elizabeth Bishop poem ‘One Art’ - perhaps unsurprising for someone who also holds a PhD in literature (“which was how I funded making album one… education was my only way out of the life I was born into.”). But conceptually, the record covers ground beyond loss in its literal form: ‘Show Your Face’ responds to toxic masculinity and leans in to the #MeToo movement (amidst the angular guitar courtesy of the Manics’ James Dean Bradfield), while the patriarchal dynamics of the music industry are further explored on the Wurlitzer-led ‘With The Boys’. At the emotional centre of the album is ‘5 am’ - a haunting song that looks at the visceral physical impact of sexual assault and baby loss, with its quiet but powerful contemplation of the shared traumatic experience.
There’s a Scott Walker-eque baroque feel to the voice at the healing heart of the album, which is bookended by a series of Max Richter-inspired orchestral instrumental pieces. Loss is figured in both its raw newness and as a propelling energy, with hook-laden nods to Bowie’s Berlin-era . ‘Unravel’ announces itself as a twentieth-first century reworking of ‘Running Up That Hill’, colliding with the chorused guitars of The Cure. Elsewhere, the John Grant and Father John Misty flavoured ‘Let It Hurt’ explores “the ways in which we distract ourselves from grief”, while the sound-collaged segues recall the more experimental side of Prog.
‘The Art of Losing’ is a sonically ambitious album that is helmed by Davies on sole production duties - a move she said felt natural after having a “side hustle” in engineering and producing for other artists and bands: “I feel passionate about the idea that it shouldn't be a novelty to see women behind a mixing desk. There’s lots of us out there!”. To finish the self-produced record, Davies called upon the mixing talents of Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers) and Grammy-award winner Mario McNulty (David Bowie, Laurie Anderson).
An accompanying podcast features guest interviews which explore why we create and what we learn from loss, featuring conversations with Welsh poet Patrick Jones, writer Kat Lister, and Empire editor-in-chief Terri White.
12 March 2021 ‘The Art of Losing’ – new album (via Kscope on 2LP, CD & 3 CD ltd edition hardback book)
10 July 2021 Queen Elizabeth Hall, LONDON – live show