Folie à deux

Ani is the Edmonton-based darkwave project of Ana Klahr and Philip Traikovski, and if you’re familiar with their work in Traikovski’s mutant body music project Visitor, it won’t surprise you to know that debut LP Folie à deux is pretty distinct from most of the current wave of acts in the genre. While Klahr’s vocals have a healthy dose of classic darkwave iciness to them, the project’s music has a far warmer and more organic tone than is typical, despite their synthetic nature.

The record’s best moments are those where elements of psychedelia and electro-pop seep in at the edges, fleshing out the songs with colours not normally found in the style’s often monochromatic palette. A track like the appropriately titled “July” succeeds thanks to the way its snappy drum and bass programming is complimented by an ascending melody line in the chorus that conveys warmth in contrast to its shadowy verses. Similarly, “Dead” is no less heavy for its use of some whimsical sound design choices, its bleepy leads and synthlines and organ-like bass playing up the campier elements of Klahr’s vocals. When the band do go full dark, as on “Vampira”, they keep movement and energy as a focus, its gothic arrangement led by its charging rhythm programming, scattering the chiming bells and vocal samples in its wake.

That emphasis on pace and keeping even its colder and spookier numbers from getting mired in atmospherics does a lot for the record as a whole, lending the whole affair an almost punky energy in execution. Its final third especially takes on a very unique quality, as the trippy, almost Pink-Dots-esque “Forever” gives way to the ghostly flow of “Frail”, where Klahr alternately projects disassociated and desperate as it progresses. The final track “Spirits” provides a find summation of ANI as a project, splitting the difference between catchy new wave melodies and brassy synth horns and electric pianos that read as mournful despite their retro charm.

Having seen ANI perform on stage on a few occasions now, it’s interesting to hear how their unique presence translates to the album format. While it isn’t without some rough edges – some vocals don’t sit quite right at some points, and there are a few spots where songwriting could have been tightened up – it’s still a unique and different record for a genre that has become somewhat staid and overly reverential in recent years. Folie à deux brings something new to the table, and doesn’t forego accessibility in the process.

Buy it.