Shape shifter

 

CD CHOICE: ANNA CALVI Domino * * * *There’s drama galore amid the notes on this tightrope walk of a debut album. It might seem as if Anna Calvi sprung from nowhere overnight to land on every Sound of 2011 list, but a deal of pre-match, off-the-radar refinement has been done by the London-based, half- Italian performer. A sound with this range of exquisite poise and pitch is all the better for that sort of prep work.

Much of the fuss has come thanks to Calvi’s live show, where her sense of theatrics gives the songs an enhanced narrative. Indeed, there are times onstage when she comes across as a would-be matador from the Pedro Almodóvar school of casting.

On record, Calvi relies on layered atmospherics rather than flourishes and frills for her shape-throwing. Producer Rob Ellis provides some friendly laidback guidance, but Calvi has enough cop-on and confidence to know where those songs of hers should be going. They swoon and soar with abandon, freewheeling away to the rafters.

Mention of Ellis inevitably leads to PJ Harvey. Every British female performer who plucks an electric guitar with menace and howls the blues gets those comparisons, though having Harvey’s drummer and producer as your studio foil is probably a bit of a red rag to a bull in this regard.

But Calvi is no copycat, and she speedily despatches those wisps and traces of Harvey, Jeff Buckley and Patti Smith to the wings. When you hear her investing songs such as No More Words and Desire with haunting airs, cinematic plushness and passionate fever, it’s clear that she’s beholden to no one.

As Calvi cuts loose with another twang of guitar or sings the blues over a cascade of harmonium, she stomps and stamps off yet again for the furthest point on the horizon. Truly, no tempest or troubles can stop her in her tracks. See annacalvi.com

JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: No More Words, Desire, First We Kiss