You could be forgiven for thinking Annabel (lee) is a person. The identity projected to the press for Annabel's debut album, 2015's By the Sea... and Other Solitary Places, was kept purposefully vague, at least by the Ninja Tune sub-label that released it, If Music. Yet, that's apparently the name under which Sheila Brown Ellis (formerly Annabel) and Richard Ellis (aka Richard E) produce their haunting, trip-hop-tinged mutant jazz and post-folk.
The duo's debut was touted as an unlikely collaboration between a classically trained violinist/cabaret singer from New York and a London-based dance music composer, but it looks like they're married now and living in Los Angeles together — makes sense, because from the sound of their albums, they are the perfect team. Their tastes mesh in blissful ecstasy, drawing on the finest classical, '70s folk and jazz influences, as well as brilliant poetry like that of William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe.
The differences between their debut and The Cleansing are subtle. The production is a little more focused on their new album, a little less Nina Simone trying to claw her way back through the ether to our plane of existence and a little more Billie Holliday being serenaded by Antonio Carlos Jobim on the beach at sunset. In this more serene, summery context, the mind-bending lyrics are drawn into greater focus, hitting deeper parts of the brain than ever before. This is the stuff you can imagine the Heliocentrics and the Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble putting on before drinking ayahuasca. (Youngbloods)