If you are involved or interested in the urban or especially the hiphop/neo-soul scene in Aarhus, there is probably no chance you haven’t already stumbled upon local 21-year old singer ANKAH (an acronym of Anna Kathrine) in the last year or so. In 2015 she and her band have been playing more or less everywhere – be it Bruun’s Galleri, SPOT Festival, Mejlgade For Mangfoldighed or this Friday at the opening of Sculptures By The Sea. She has also been awarded a Scandinavian Soul Music Award as Best Newcomer before even having an official release and gotten recommendations from P6Beat to Blue Foundation’s Kirstine Stubbe Teglbjærg.
Personally I had my first glimpse of her live at Musik Aarhus Festival in January, having listened to her tracks on her Soundcloud page for a while. I am a huge neo-soul fan and it is obvious that ANKAH’s inspiration and some of my favorite artists such as D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Bilal, Erykah Badu and producers/musicians like Ali Shaheed Muhammed, James Poyser, J-Dilla and Salaam Remi are the same. Neo-soul is also a very neglected genre at the moment in Denmark, although it has had some breakthrough since Amy Winehouse with people like Barbara Moleko on her first album, Nanna B. and Billow. Therefore it was very nice just to hear someone do neo-soul without having to revert to cheap pop-productions or auto-tune and just make organic music.
And that is one of ANKAH’s main forces. She, her producers and band seem to understand both the dynamics of instrumentation in the mix -especially live – and the syncopation of both drums and bass. And just as important the chord progressions that make up this duo-rhapsodian genre and how to revolve around these. They maybe a little to inspired of the old masters at times, but they are still young and the music is very good – once again especially live.
After a great deal of hype and a couple of live-videos and Soundcloud-tracks ANKAH released her debut-EP “Haze” last Friday through Søren Sko’s Brand-In Music and the Danish shoe-store Lofina. The EP consists of five new tracks, which as far as I can figure out have been produced by her band this time around. Sadly though, the EP is only released digitally, so no vinyls. The release of “Haze” was celebrated at Café Paradis where the band played both the EP and older tracks live.
The production on “Haze” is pretty good, the groove is there, the soundscape is quite open, the guitar stabs are spot on most of the time and the drums are driven while still being shuffled and loose. It’s somewhat prototypical but work very well, except for a few places where they haven’t seemed to capture what works live with the tracks; most notably in “New Dimension” where the spaced out part for the last couple of minutes seem a bit clumsy even though the idea is very good. It worked a lot better live.
ANKAH is a very good singer. The lyrics are a bit simple but work well most of the time. She has an ability to make you feel her words – perhaps the most important thing in this genre, apart from being on key. She performs very well. Once again though, not all the magic from the live performances make it’s way to the recorded tracks. That is not uncommon with a lot of music, Gypsies being the general example of this trend. We are nowhere near that. It sounds good recorded – just not as good as it does live. ANKAH also has a small articulation problem when she gets to the lower notes and not all of her phrasings work equally well. Hopefully this will change with times and she learns to sing more powerful in that register.
All in all it is a very successful EP which shows a lot of potential for growing while still providing a good soundtrack true to it’s roots. I would have liked for the mix to have the instruments placed a bit different to give a more organic sound and a warmer more dusty analog sound to the master. No track feels out of place and even though I do have my favorites nothing really stands out above the other. A strong debut from what could shortly be one of the key artists within the genre in Scandinavia.
"No track fells out of place and even though I do have my favorites nothing really stands out above the other. A strong debut from what could shortly be one of the key artists within the genre in Scandinavia." (4.5/6)