by Jordan Mooney.
The idea of being a wunderkind – of being a child prodigy, in the traditional sense, is rather an extraordinary concept to most of us. In the modern music industry, most of this sense of traditionalism or acclaim for gifted musicians at a young age is almost completely neglected (Unless, of course, it’s one of these terrible television contests and you have the impeccable luck to be a blubbering choir boy), and many of those whom are hailed as such irreparably cease making music or fall into tragic obscurity.
Seldom do these young performers end up moving into the somewhat small but very talented clique of Goth Electronica.
Anna Bo, our Gothic musician for the evening, took up Piano playing at the age of five. At the age of eleven she was recognised by the Bulgarian Union of Composers, and ended up travelling all around her country taking part in festivals and large scale performances.
A fairly promising start of a musician, really!
She continued studying as a pianist during high school, and, afterwards, graduated from The National Music Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria with composition. From here she joined the ‘dark side’ we all love so much – getting into a mixture of punk, goth and other alternative cliques. Risky business at the time of communist rule still lingering in the country.
After playing in a series of bands with her precious keyboards and synths (one of these bands, ‘Mortal Remains’, had a big hit in the country’s charts, too!), while doing some backing vocals here and there, she began working on her solo material.
While wrestling with the industry’s preference towards Bulgarian-language music, Sister Of The Moon, her first solo track, was released in a compilation that held what was titled ‘the best of Bulgarian indie acts‘, with Rhythm Magazine – one of the most popular music publications on Bulgarian Soil and a pretty strong name in the entirety of Southeastern Europe.
The coming of the internet has now allowed the music that record labels refused – and her 7 track release, Songs of a Melancholic Princess, is now available on bandcamp.
Composed of some very spooky atmosphere, plenty of synthesizers and some really rather beautiful vocals, this is a very urban, very distant sounding record. It’s very difficult to place what’s happening where – you can muster up an image of a house in the middle of nowhere, a big battered warehouse in the middle of a collapsed society, dejected and forgotten, being used as some sort of terrific recording studio, a lady in her bedroom or something as simple somebody that little bit ‘different’ walking down the street. It’s all simultaneous. The thematics of the album and the respective tracks flow in and out in every song – and the imagery follows – it’s like one great big music video in your head.
The vocals have a very unique sort of stature – they in no way dominate what’s otherwise happening on the record – it seems to be regarded as much an instrument as the well-worked synthesizers. They, too, flow, in and out of prominence as and when required. They don’t butt in or drown the music behind them, nor do they shrink into significance.
The release is unusual in the sense it doesn’t tout volume or aggressive reaction – it’s all very quiet and mature. As a result, the atmosphere is carries something in particular – it’s very special. It’s something that I’ve not really heard in a record before. Anybody who reads Cat on the Wall regularly will know I am an absolute sucker for some atmospheric recordings, and in this case it’s all very unsettling. Anna sounds incredibly innocent throughout the record, very young, inoffensive, and even somewhat exhausted. It’s as if she’s reflecting on what’s happened in the past, on her position with other people – basically on being ‘different’.
With some great beats, some brilliant guitars, drums and bass wrestling into the mix as when required and a really, really impressive bit of mixing, this is a release that proves alternative music is still capable of being every bit as beautiful as it can be relieving to those whom get a bit fed up of the ‘normal’ cliques we see in public.
This isn’t a release that needs to be played loud. You can play it any way you like and the qualities of it all will still wrestle into your head.
It’s heartily recommended, and when we approached Anna with a few questions about the record and herself, she graciously agreed.
Cat On The Wall: Hi there, Anna – welcome to Cat on the Wall! Please, introduce yourself and your music to our readers.
Anna Bo: Hell-o (!), I’m Anna Bo and I’m a musician/singer/artist from Bulgaria!
COTW: Your music is a very unusual, almost smoky combination of Goth music and electronica – what is it that turned you to this sound from your pianist routes?
Anna Bo: I think I got ‘into’ goth music in high school. I’d already had the career of a pianist-wunderkind sort of figure in my younger years, and when I used my first synthesizer, I stumbled into electronic music – I loved every non-acoustically created sound.
COTW: Do you have any specific influences? Are there any bands lately that have particularly taken your attention?
Anna Bo: I’m a huge Bowie fan. You’ll probably be able to hear things like Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Cocteau Twins and Blondie (to name a few) in my music, too.
Trent Reznor – as a composer and as a personality – is also a pretty big inspiration.
Oh, and I just remembered I was nicknamed ‘the bulgarian Bjork‘ by the media here, too…!
I think there’s been some good music released this year – I like the latest albums by The Soft Moon, The KVB, Girls Names, PVT, Nine Inch Nails
and Factory Floor. I recently saw ‘A Place To Bury Strangers‘ live, supported by Bambara and they blew my mind – and my ears too..!
COTW: There’s a very strange, evocative quality to it all, combined with very unusual titles, we can’t help but ask – are the songs about anything in particular? Is there a story to all this?
Anna Bo: Some are written after a concrete experience, some are completely imaginary – and sometimes there’s a combination of both 🙂 I like abstract lyrics (as in one of my tracks, Plastic), but if you want a ‘story behind a song’ I can point to ‘Sister Of The Moon‘ and that’s all I’ll say!
COTW: We understand the release wasn’t picked up due to language issues – you recording vocals in English as opposed to your ‘mother tongue’, as it were. Do you think this would still be an issue now?
Anna Bo: No. This has changed in the last few years – now it wouldn’t be a problem, but the way the music industry functions has changed too, and I don’t think I’m interested in working with anyone who supports the old methods.
COTW: You’ve mentioned your experiences being in a goth/punk clique during the final years of Communist influence in Bulgaria to us before…Would you care to share this with our readers?
Anna Bo: I would love to, if only I could remember – it was in my teenage years, and we were doing lots of crazy things!! 🙂
But before the fall of the Berlin Wall, you could be arrested on the street just because of the way you look – if you have a mohawk, or wear alternative/metal accessories, for example…
COTW: How did you meet the people who contributed to your record?
Anna Bo: Most of them are colleagues from The Music Academy, or from fellow bands from the indie scene here – they’re all very good musicians and recording with them was a lot of fun.
COTW: What inspired you to move from bands to producing your ‘own’ record?
Anna Bo: As a student in music school, I knew I wanted to be in a band, but, maybe ’cause I had been playing piano for so long, playing keyboards was the first thing that I thought of. Then, being a ‘young composer’ evolved naturally to writing my own songs, and singing background vocals on a couple of records gave me the confidence to sing my own material.
COTW: And what are your plans for the future?
Anna Bo: It’s looking bright! My main focus is writing/recording new tracks right now, a couple of collaborations are also in the works, sound designing, and maybe a new album next year!
COTW: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, Anna – we look forward to hearing more material from you soon. Many thanks and the best of luck for your future!
Anna Bo: Thanks for having me, it was a pleasure – good luck to Cat On The Wall too!
If you ever need something you can just zone out listening to – something that won’t intrude or try to shock you back into reality, this very surreal, very loveable little release is perfect for you.
It’s a perfect album to end a heavy, dirty punk gig in particular. Give it a try.
When you listen to this album, I’d like you to do me a favour – close your eyes and see what imagery the music will stick in your head. When you’ve got something particularly odd, let me know. Either on Twitter or Facebook – tell me what this record does for you.
Songs of the Melancholic Princess was made available on Bandcamp on the 14th of February 2013.
Anna Bo – music, lyrics, vocals, keyboards, programming, arrangements
Miroslav Ivanov – guitars on Sister Of The Moon, If, Gone and Believe
Ivo Stoyadinov (Charlie) – guitars on So and Plastic
Ivo Zvezdomirov – bass on Sister Of The Moon
Stefan Kozhuharov – drums on Sister Of The Moon
Boyan (Epeto) – bass on So, Gone, Plastic, and Believe
Deyan Dragiev (Dakata) – drums on So, Gone, Plastic and Believe