Idle Mind by Anna MiekeRelease date: April 26, 2019
Any casual listener of Idle Mind the debut album by the Irish singer-songwriter Anna Mieke Bishop, who as an artist opted to go just by Anna Mieke, might give up quickly. That is if they are not exactly a fan of a current trend among female singer-songwriters that go for an atmospheric feel and creating impressionistic musical spaces that recreate their interpretations of physical spaces, interactions, moods… think, in current terms, artists like Marissa Nadler.
That would be a shame, for these artists, Marissa Nadler, or in this case, in particular, Anna Mieke. All of them, in some way, draw a musical line set by legendary Joni Mitchell way back when, from her seminal Blue album, through her more jazz-minded explorations on albums like Hejira.
And judging by Idle Mind, Anna Mieke shows potential to be a good carrier of that torch. As she puts it herself, “What started out two years ago as a plan to just record a few songs, resulted in Idle Mind, a collection of ten tracks experimenting with folk music and collaboration, playing with ideas of place, age, belonging, and various societal misalignments I’ve encountered along the way.”
Indeed, the whole album sounds like a sparse, spaced-out exploration, where the spaces between sounds and Mieke’s vocals play as much part as the notes themselves. It is mostly duets, with Mieke playing a series of instruments, from bouzouki to cello, with Mieke’s two collaborators here bringing in both folk (the opener ‘Parallel’) and jazz (the title track) tones to her music, all coupled with gentle electronic here and there (‘Creatures’).
It all slots into place, like on the excellent ‘Keep It Whole’, with its gentle electric guitar pickings, and hushed background vocals that just have shades of Irish music, but also all the other places Mieke hitch-hiked through while this album was still being conceived.
Mieke also escapes one of the usual traps of the singer-songwriter mode, that is the sameishness of ideas and interpretation that can bog down albums of artists that have a specific voice as she does. When the song demands it, like an ‘Aurillac’ Mieke picks up the pace, only to bring it down for the overall mood.
A quiet, hushed promise of an album.