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Agua de Annique: Air

As you have probably all heard, Anneka van Giersbergen abrubtly left The Gathering recently, and has quickly put together her own band, Agua de Annique. Air is the debut album, and she's decided to stay with The End Records, who have been the label of her previous band for a few years. The music here is not much different than what we have come to expect from The Gathering the last half decade or so, although surprisingly there are a few heavier songs on this CD than what we have come to expect from Anneke in quite a while. "Witnesses" rocks pretty damn hard, filled with plenty of relentless guitar riffs from Joris Dirks and pummeling drums courtesy of Rob Snijders, and the opener "Beautiful One" matches catchy hooks with shimmering arrangements and driving rhythms, easily one of the most commercially appealing rock songs on the CD.

There's plenty of ballady pop material here that lets Anneke show off an almost Jewel-like folky quality, like on "Yalin", "Day After Yesterday", and the modern indie-rock flavored "My Girl". The singers angelic crooning floats over lilting guitar chords on "Take Care of Me", and soars alongside rock guitars and Dirks' backing vocals on "Ice Water". However, it's not until "You Are Nice!" that the band really kicks things up again, as this one is a heavy rocker, with thick guitar riffs, stabbing synth blasts, and Anneke's snarling vocals. Unfortunately, that's the last rocker of the bunch, as the second half of the CD is filled with more laid back, melancholy numbers, the most interesting of which is the somewhat jazzy "Sunken Soldiers" and the Pink Floyd inspired "Lost and Found", the latter featuring some great guitar leads from Dirks.

Despite some moments that sees Anneke moving towards more aggressive & dramatic territory , much of Air comes across as a collection of ballads and singer-songwriter type material. There's certainly a huge market for this kind of stuff here in the US, and I'm sure that fans of the last few Gathering releases will eat this up, but if you long for anything along the lines of Mandylion, Nightime Birds, or If_Then_Else, you're not going to find much of that here. Air is sort of like what we've heard on Home and Souvenirs, just with a different band behind the lovely and talented Anneke van Giersbergen.

Track Listing
01. Beautiful One
02. Witnesses
03. Yalin
04. Day After Yesterday
05. My Girl
06. Take Care of Me
07. Ice Water
08. You Are Nice
09. Trail of Grief
10. Come Wander
11. Sunken Soldiers
12. Lost and Found
13. Asleep

Added: September 24th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: The End Records
Hits: 6121
Language: english

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Agua de Annique: Air
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-09-28 13:17:59
My Score:

It starts with a very simple drum beat that seems to find its way into almost every track, and develops into a straightforward vocals-oriented piece sung by The Gathering's ex-siren, Anneke van Giersbergen. Hence the band's name - get it? Agua De Annique - with the 'agua' referring to the repeated reference to water as a metaphor for so many things in her lyrics.

But although this band belongs to The Gathering's ex front lady, don't expect to hear that band's sound here. This is more Sleepy Buildings than Manyylion - more lullaby than rocker, more pop than prog. Anneke herself describes the music as "alternative pop-rock", and admits that "because these songs were written by one person they don't have as many elements as The Gathering's music - they're simpler, not so layered, and not as eclectic". We would agree. Listen to "You Are Nice" to see what she means - linear, straightforward, and not progressive, doomy, metallic or gothic in any way. It's very song-oriented, and with 13 radio-friendly short songs in 51 minutes, and only two songs (barely) breaking the 5-minute mark, the album is clearly directed toward a commercial market.

The songs describe vignettes of her life through the passage of several years. Anneke's excellent singing seems to permeate every bar of every song, and her vocal delivery is faultless and her pitch control is spot on, as you'd expect, though you might wish for a bit more complexity or a few more instrumentals to punctuate the songs. The lineup is pretty standard, though it's enhanced by guest artists helping out with more vocal lines, strings, flute and trumpet. More emphasis on those additional textures would have been nice.

It was made clear to us that our review copy is probably not the final mix. Production was generally quite good even in this pre-release version, so - as with The Gathering - expect Air to be a well produced, professionally turned out body of work. Let's face it - after all that time in a top-flight genre-leading band that released 8 studio albums, completed several world tours and won numerous awards during her tenure, Anneke has become the consummate professional.

Click here to read our article, published after a recent conversation with Annique. Er - with Anneke.

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