The restricted EP format comes with it’s own set of challenges that can drive an artist to despair. Capturing a band’s essential ‘sound’ and avoiding a dis-jointed output is a fine balancing act and the EP can be very unforgiving.
With their first five-track release: The Kingfisher, Rosemary and Garlic have struck this difficult balance between coherence and variety with superb effect. A Dutch collaboration between singer and songwriter Anne van den Hoogen, and producer Dolf Smolenaers, Rosemary and Garlic compliment each other almost as well as these two ingredients do in a culinary setting. The Kingfisher is a well formed work, with a great sense of artistic completeness.
Anne van den Hoogen’s lyrics come across as simple statements, delivered to convey a sense of longing, primarily for an un-named, un-specified character, who remains the focus throughout the EP. She portrays her own character, a solitary and detached figure, continually placing distance between herself and the other. The two are depicted within a web of images of changing seasons, landscapes and seascapes, almost as vivid as the beautifully illustrated Kingfisher, which adorns the CD’s cover. In the music video for the title track, these images are brought to life by a Swedish winter landscape, which sees the solitary, white clad songstress skating across a frozen lake.
The most appropriate word I’ve been able to find to describe van den Hoogen as a vocalist is dignified. From moments of tranquility, such as the start of I’ll Come to You, to the intense, drum fuelled end of The Dancers, her voice remains composed, switching to higher registers with an effortless sounding mastery. Conveying her lyrics in the way that she does, she fortifies the feeling of solitude. In The Kingfisher, her silvery voice takes on something of an ethereal quality, a feeling that is heightened by the minimalist sounding piano, as she sings: “Did you hear me calling for you from the top of the old trees / Heavy snow upon the branches he tells me to let it be”.
A varied musical approach is taken over the course of the EP on which a host of different textures are to be found. The indie-folk California opens with a lightly distorted electric guitar solo, leading in to a simple, catchy vocal line, backed by acoustic guitar and sparingly used drums. Multi-tracked backing vocals and pounding drums feature at other points in the EP as well as serene string pads and the sparing use of mellotron sounds.
Perhaps it is the contrast between the lyrics and the music that sees the success of The Kingfisher. Van den Hoogen’s lyrics, to me the defining feature of this release, linking the more varied elements of the EP’s musical content. The resulting work is both small but well formed, striking a remarkable balance between coherence and variety.
Review by: Jospeh Peach
The Kingfisher is Out Now
Order it via Bandcamp