The eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Be Life is a jaw-dropping return from Anne Garner. Lost Play (Slowcraft Records) shows a sensitive understanding of the self, bringing with it a behemoth of an epiphany. Over time, things are lost – people are lost – and Lost Play faces up to this erosion bravely, where the leaving behind of childhood meets the slow-bleeding loss of innocence.
The music of Lost Play unfolds slowly, appearing to be as soft as an ambient meditation, an interlude of alone-time. Seclusion is not the same as loneliness, and when it comes to music, being alone and spending time in silence proves to be fertile ground for a creative renewal. Anne’s music unfolds like a dream, a lit candle before the meditation can begin, where acceptance of the current state-of-play mingles with the practice of self-love, healing rifts, growing up, and coming to terms with the death of youth. Her music flies in a new sky, her vulnerable, angelic voice standing alone in the intelligent and spacious architecture of ambient sound; her stanzas of thoughtful, poetic lyrics, written in ink and sung through the voice (the heart’s instrument) strike deeply.
Her sound has expanded, opening up like a dollhouse to take in a more spacious, mature phrasing, and the new pieces of instrumental furniture aren’t there for decoration. Be Life was an ambient album – her soft-as-silk vocals and draped electronic layers were the colour of a soft dusk – and Lost Play has a markedly different tone, coming across as a darker and wider being, at least atmospherically-speaking. The introduction of classical instrumentation has something to do with this, as the music lives in the half-light between ambient and modern classical composition. A feeling of time slipping through the fingers, of lost time, of never seeing someone again or experiencing the treasure of childhood, is prevalent throughout the record. Children want to smile, laugh, play. The world wants to harden that limitless abode of love and friendship, interfering in and attempting to disrupt playtimes, changing them, erasing them, and winning, leaving behind smudged, horizontal whitecaps of chalk.
‘There used to be a playground. There used to be adventure here.’
Lost Play is an eulogy of sorts, but it also aims to rediscover and repair the things that went missing – a childhood thrill, the unique outlook on life and the light inside the self before it’s beset by the pressures of adulthood, of society, and of the demands to conform. If you don’t belong to a tribe or a particular association (social, religious, political – they’re all the same. Groups of people clustering together with a common interest or a shared identity. A group in which peer pressure, or the need to be a part of a system, can snuff out the light of individuality, like some kind of emotional trepanning or brainwashing), you’re considered an outsider, either dangerous or antisocial. If you’re single (happily or otherwise) in a world dominated by sex and the continued push to be in a relationship, the pressures feel much the same. Introversion can be vilified, and the pressure to change, to become more extroverted in a world that screams at the top of its lungs, can be damaging to a sensitive soul; the self can be wounded or even lost in the process. After the joyous play of preschool, creativity is discouraged; schools tell you how to write and how to join up the words to form sentences, but they will then give you a reading list and tell you what to read. Challenge those conventions and those assumptions.
And then, when adulthood comes around, imagination is usually a shrunken, ineffective shell of what it was; its eyes have become accustomed to an ill-light, blind from a lack of use. Sadness stirs. And, as teenage indulgence comes to a miserable end, adulthood begins to rear its ugly, beast-shaped head; the pressure to be like everyone else becomes too much for some. Shit happens, basically. But we’re all on different paths, and on different timelines. Back in the playground, this wasn’t common knowledge. In school, life is taught as being like a straight line, in a particular order. It goes something like this: university, graduation, work, house, marriage, car, kids, retirement, death.
No. Go and do your own thing. In reality, the line is thoroughly inebriated, drunkenly doodling and circling in and out, sometimes moving backwards and then veering up before crashing and burning into a flame of scribbles. Like a child’s first and hazardous attempt at drawing, it can be messy as hell, but it’s all the more beautiful for its heart, its unadulterated honesty and creative freedom. Children are naturally creative – creativity is something they’re born with. Let’s not suffocate that. Let them be The Living.
Lost Play deals with the gradual washing away of innocence, and in turn, a leaking from the jug of overflowing bliss through unknowing. The suppression of the self can be heard in Lost Play, in spite of its darker enchantments and liberal outpourings. In a recent interview with Textura, Anne reflected on this:
I had a very strict religious upbringing and was often fearful of saying the wrong thing or simply saying how I really felt. The pressure to be a good Christian made me unhappy, and I’ve since found it difficult to determine who I am and what I want from life. The times when I’m most creative and playful are when I’m most content. When I lose sight of that I’m always at my saddest and loneliest. I think we can regain that joy so long as we remember how to play.’
Anne shows a great amount of bravery in voicing these thoughts, and her honesty gives the music an extra depth. This is real songcraft, real heart, real music. Her music cries, wanting to be free. ‘Let me be’ is an almost childish plea to its parental world. But her music also has a childlike innocence, a creative, shining light that has never dimmed, radiating out from a lovely soul. It’s about losing your way, finding a reassuring and loving hand to hold when you’re feeling the tug of loneliness and the ache of a recent ending, remembering but continuing. Lost Play is a special album, beautiful in the extreme, but breaking, too. Like the words of Ecclesiastes, there’s a time for everything. It’s good to have had that time. This is another chapter.