Ana and the Black Mamba – All is Wrong (2017) – Review

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Where is Ana? That was the quest the RMR deck crew and its captain embarked on when starting with All is Wrong of Ana and the Black Mamba. Because, for the life of us, the expected Amy Winehouse lookalike did not happen. ‘Tis a guy singing, right? And there’s no chick anywhere in any prominent position. For sure not in front of any microphone. 

Well, in desperation we inquired with the band. And – lo and behold – Ana does not exist. Instead, the word means ‘I’ in Arabic. There you go, contrite RMR got himself a foreign language lesson. Albeit, a pretty short one.

Actually, the name came about when Khalid El Haouari (the ‘I’) and Olivier Michauville (Black Mamba) got together and formed this decidedly young folk band. The outfit is famously based in Montreux, Switzerland. You know, home of the Montreux Jazz Festival, the statue of Freddie Mercury, and the famous source of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. But hey, treading the grounds of a city steeped in music history does seem to work well for them. As their ever-growing popularity can attest.

All is Wrong features a reflective, kinda subdued Folk style, mixed with some sort of Alt-Country, Blues, and a taste of R’n’B. Quiet and reflective, the record sounds like a happy conglomerate of the seriousness of Daughter, the craziness of Darkher, and a tad of the quieter moments of Alex Hepburn and Amy Winehouse combined. Now, did I just mention females only in this insane name-calling? Indeed so. Because – quite amazingly – Ana and the Black Mamba are an all-male band. Yet, the lead singer does sport this distinctively broken voice that always adds spice to that type of tune.

Now, as it goes with bands of that ilk, the lyrics are their real strength. Even if some of that good stuff sometimes drowns in carefully murdered English. The subdued, folksy variety that All is Wrong portrays definitely got on my good side, too. Not easy in a genre where lyrics and acoustic guitar usually monotonously dominate the tracklist. A truly limiting and often static type of action to boot.

So, to try and make up on lack of theatrics can only be done with the quality of the tune and subtle injection of new elements. Ana and the Black Mamba definitely have this gift to project powerful messages without howling about the stage. You’ll usually find this only with bands that show promise to go further with their tune. Much further. 

Darkin Callin, Many Roads, and Ure Moon – the first three contenders on the list – really get you a stellar pack of emotion and great execution. Let me also mention the title track All is Wrong that impresses with a muted funkiness and a slight scent of desperation. All of them tracks really convince with a quiet strength that I have seldom found this side of Leonard Cohen. 

Despite all that, the album somehow loses some of its luster towards mid-point, once a subtle version of the infamous repetitive bug creeps in. Some sort of déjà-vu, without being one. Sailing them tracks along on an even plane, at same or similar sound levels that don’t really keep interest levels up. Injecting style elements into tracks that don’t belong. In other words, a vigorous culling of the track list may have led to a shorter, but much more powerful delivery. And that would have kicked this album up a few notches.

But then again, you have these jewels hiding about the second part of All is Wrong. The excellent rendition of Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus for instance. Or a refreshing Judge and Accused, whose pretty cool qualities only become visible after a few plays. 

So, does All is Wrong finally mean Nomen Est Omen? The title sounds a bit desperate, true. Yet, the contents are anything but. Ana and the Black Mamba created a refreshing record that will not fear the ardent competition this genre faces already. Don’t expect a rock album, this ain’t one. Instead, you will get introspective folk that you’ll need to listen to in front of the fire. A tune for quiet moments, if you will.

So, is All is Wrong any good? Damn straight it is. And we will be looking for more from these folks, make no mistake.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Site
Release date: 15 December 2017

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