West London artist ALA.NI has confirmed release details for her debut album You & I, due on June 3, 2016 through No Format. With all songs written & produced by ALA.NI, the album was recorded at Damon Albarn's Studio 13 in London. The announcement follows ALA.NI's startling emergence last year on Later......With Jools Holland, which came amidst the arrival of her 4-strong EP cycle Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, charting the seasons & weathers of a failed relationship (accruing over 2.5 million streams since). The release of You & I will come alongside an intimate album release tour -- having previously played alongside Ibeyi -- including a London headline at The Forge on June 15.
ALA.NI stopped many people dead in their tracks when she appeared on Jools late last year, performing 'Cherry Blossom' -- lifted from her ParadYse-released EP, Spring -- with a MGM-gone-noir vocal, as compulsively anachronistic as the Classic sensibility of the track itself. ALA.NI arrived with a voice that seems to take in the cadences of musical history, and an idiosyncratic creative approach to conveying her music, including spooky, self-produced Super 8 videos and release formats that include wax cylinder recordings and even a miniature music box.
Raised in Shepherds Bush by Grenada-born parents -- a reggae-calypso bassist father, and a couture seamstress mother -- ALA.NI sang them 'Over The Rainbow' at the age of 3, and her talent was immediately obvious. As an older cousin was studying at the Sylvia Young School, her mum and dad followed suit. Simple -- though as ALA.NI keenly clarifies with a laugh, 'not a conventional, sing-for-mummy-darling sort-of tale.' After leaving school, ALA.NI sang behind or alongside people with huge talent on tours, like Andrea Bocelli, Mary J Blige and Blur. She was successful, but didn't carve out a space for her own art until four years ago. Whilst spending time with her parents back in Grenada, something happened creatively that had never occurred before: a song, I'll Remember, arrived out of her mouth, all in one piece, one morning at 3am.
Then it happened again, when Cherry Blossom subsequently emerged, fully formed, in the middle of the night. This music sounded like a series of woozy yet crepuscular David Lynch-ian miniatures, rushing between the glow of innocence and the pang of experience. ALA.NI realised that as a backing singer she had spent too much time trying to fulfil the limited remit of her training, where as a woman of colour she'd be expected to sing Reggae, RnB and Soul styles almost exclusively. She hadn't been able to do melismatic American soul runs, because she wasn't a melismatic American soul singer. She had been turned down for jobs because she sounded too English, but she was English.
The resulting 4 strong EP cycle -- entitled Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter -- and the album which now draws that material together for the first time, track where ALA.NI was in her head in a very literal way, too. It traces an arc through the duration of a particularly tumultuous relationship, with a man who was with someone else at the time- a relationship she hoped would win out, it quickly became one she couldn't have. As such, ALA.NI's outlook is now tempered by wisdom and an acceptance of change, which the listener feels keenly as You & I plays. With ALA.NI's hushed, grainy vocals sparsely fleshed out by a '66 Gibson 345, Come To Me conjures up the warmth of being together during those first rushes of desire, with "flowers blooming by the door." By the time we get to One Heart, though, the singer tells us: "I sense you are torn/Evidently, you love me / And another, this I know." By Roses & Wine, the lover "runs out of time." By Darkness At Noon, the light has gone out entirely: "We agreed to end this love affair/To erase every word that you said that set me free."
The sense of loss the record conveys is genuinely, astonishingly touching, & it turns out that her farewell to that affair in the greatest of ways, was also a farewell to the city she loved. Soon after, ALA.NI moved to Paris, which is where she now lives and works, charging into the future. You & I has changed ALA.NI in other ways, too: during a recent spot at David Lynch's Paris Silencio club, the idea of the performance, and its timelessness, soaked into her bones, and the idea of history being brought into the present -- her own, and that of music -- was suddenly golden, forever.