Austel is the nom de plume of Devon born songwriting talent Annie Rew Shaw. Having studied classical vocal and piano from a young age, at the tender age of 19 Annie took the plunge to move to London to try and ‘make it’ as a musician.
In late 2016, Austel started working with co-writer, producer and music technologist Adam Stark from Rumour Cubes – a collaboration that transpired to be the first time she felt she’d found the right voice and direction for her music after working with many other producers.
The first fruit of the collaboration is the intricate and bewitching ‘Crows’. Employing dark percussive elements and classy synth chords, it’s a stunning piece of electronica that’s bound to win over fans of SOHN,James Blake & Goldfrapp. It definitely got our attention so we asked Annie to pick the three records that set her on this path.
Songbird – Eva Cassidy
This was the first record I remember falling in love with as a child, and it’s stayed with me throughout my whole life. I regard Eva Cassidy as one of the greatest singers of all time – she taught me so much about the emotional and spiritual depths you can reach with the voice, as well as the power of dynamics. She has an incredible capacity to move through light and dark; from the utmost fragility to full power.
The opening track on the record – Eva’s cover of Sting’s ‘Fields Of Gold’ will always remind me of my mother – particularly frequent car journeys down country lanes in Devon. Her arrangements have such a simple, understated beauty; honing in on the core elements of the songs and their sentiment.
Her versions of classics like ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’ transform the melodies in such a crafted way that they almost overwrite the originals. Other favourites are ‘People Get Ready’, ‘Time Is A Healer’ and ‘I Know You By Heart’, which still breaks me every time I listen to it.
Songbird is transcendent of genre and time. It reminds me why I love music and where to find home.
The Eraser – Thom Yorke
I’m a huge Radiohead fan. The Bends, Amnesiac and In Rainbows are all up there among my favourite albums. However, Thom Yorke’s first solo record holds a special place in my heart. I remember watching Thom Yorke performing a solo set at the Big Chill festival when I was 15 and finding it absolutely mesmerising. The electronic soundscapes, hypnotic, glitchy rhythms and ghostly washes of backing vocals are all musical elements that have heavily inspired Austel.
The opening title track has this incredible build throughout, punctuated by his trademark piano chord progressions. Another favourite is ‘Harrowdown Hill’ – the lyrics ‘We think the same things at the same time / We just can’t do anything about it’. So good.
This record definitely indulges my inclination towards darker, more melancholic writing. It encouraged me to experiment with working from bass lines and beats when writing songs and producing demos, rather than always starting on the piano. It’s also some of my favourite album artwork of all time, inspiring some of my own drawings.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
I was actually introduced to this record before I heard For Emma, Forever Ago, so it was my first experience of Bon Iver. It was around the time that I was travelling up to London to work on music whilst doing my A Levels, so it holds a strong association of new beginnings and anticipation. I recorded a cover of ‘Perth’ on a grand piano in a church in Guildford – it was one of the first things I put up on SoundCloud.
The textures in this album are incredible – the layers of vocals Justin Vernon uses to create these immense soundscapes, the lucious, warm horns; there’s so much depth and expansion. Beautiful orchestration. The track listing itself is a work of art – the record travels from this huge, powerful opening track to the soft, cloud-like Beth / Rest, traversing across dreamier tracks like ‘Wash’ and guitar-focused ‘Towers’ (that riff always brings a smile to my heart).
Bon Iver heavily influenced my approach to writing lyrics, with a focus on poetry, ambiguity and phonetics. One of my all-time favourite lines is in ‘Holocene’ – ‘And at once I knew I was not magnificent’ – there’s so much wisdom in that; learning to be at peace with being part of everything, finding your place in the universe.