ANAMAI is an experimental folk band from Toronto consisting of Anna Mayberry, who is better known for her role in the much more in-your-face band called HSY, and David Psutka. As far as debut albums go, Sallows is pretty ambient and there’s a focus on the “heaviness” of sound, which makes it a breath of fresh air insofar as the Canadian folk scene goes (do we really need another band that sounds a lot like Mumford and Sons?). Essentially, these songs plod and weigh on your chest in weird and wonderful ways. There’s a repetitiveness of sound, which does become wearying on a more than 45 minute full length, considering that the majority of these songs eclipse the five minute mark. However, the end package is haunting and elegant. With very minimal drums (and that’s when there’s drums at all), the disc feels tribal, as though this is a field recording from some deep black, rotting wood. If that image does seem off-putting, well, the music will be to some. That said, Mayberry’s vocals are pixie-like, so against the backdrop of the morbid is a bright ray of sunshine. The juxtaposition is startling, and you feel as though you’re listening to something deeply special and rare.
Still, the album does wear out its welcome somewhat when you get deeper and deeper into the record, which might suggest this is more digestible at an EP’s length. Either that, or ANAMAI needs to find some way to stretch the sound and make it more palpable over the long haul. But this is still original and daring, and if ratings could be handed out for bravery and uniqueness, this would be right up there. I’m going to go back to my original statement in the preceding paragraph and say that it’s good to hear Canadian folk being made that doesn’t hew to sounding like more successful acts. I must say that, while I’m not sure if I would go out and buy this album for myself (folk not being my preferred genre, and experimental folk that doesn’t sound like New Weird America being something I’m still trying to wrap my head around), it’s worthy of merit. Put it this way, if you like your music a bit on the dark and plodding side, and also have an appreciation for earthy music, this is the soundtrack to a muddy, rainy day with the smell of wet moss in the air. Spend a little time with AMAMAI and the walls of your dwelling will fall away and you’ll be one with the natural elements. As the group sings, “we kill time,” and this is a pretty good way to do it.