Anne Malin Fog Area

Anne Malin Fog Area
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Hailing from South Bend, IN, Anne Malin has been releasing low-fi freak folk since 2012. Most of those releases have been on the raw side — too raw to garner more than niche appreciation, but not too raw to obfuscate the talent growing beneath. Neither Dog Nor Car, in 2016, cleaned things up without losing Malin's distinct sense of compositional quirk, but this year's Fog Area is easily the most deliberately crafted communication from the young artist so far.
 
Rather than lean into a more traditional folk path, which would likely be easier and would definitely suit Malin's beautiful, throaty voice and rustic guitar work, Fog Area takes a much weirder, more interesting turn. Opener "When Flesh Is Enough" sets existentialist poetry to ambient whirs and noisy hums, establishing some of the fresh colours of the sonic palette Malin and her new primary collaborator, William Ellis Johnson, paint with on this lovely and strange nine-track release.
 
The first "proper" song, "In Waves" is utterly gorgeous, sounding like the peacefully stoned love child of Sufjan Stevens and St. Vincent. From there, the album navigates between dark, almost Broadcast-esque baroque psyche pop, confrontational noise mixed against plaintive folk balladry, and a throwback lo-fi excursion ("Song of the Siren") before hitting powerfully subdued highlight and masterful mood piece, "Move Us," then drifting off with a trio of sparsely arranged acoustic pieces.
 
It's not the most cohesive work and some of the songs still feel somewhat unfinished, but Fog Area is a consistently interesting, occasionally brilliant album that hints at grand ambitions and demonstrates a bold talent taking a big step forward. (Independent)