Since the 2012 release of her debut album, 'The Aviary', singer-songwriter Ana Silvera's work has garnered broad acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Her uniquely ethereal brand of alt-folk
has seen her perform at SXSW, Iceland Airwaves Festival, Liverpool Royal Philharmonic and more, whilst recent collaborations include composing for Royal Ballet, duetting with Imogen Heap and singing
original songs with early music consort Concerto Caledonia.Now six-years after her last full-length record, Silvera is about to release her sophomore album, ‘Oracles’.
“It was Marcus Davey, artistic director of the Roundhouse, who was really the Oracles fairy-godfather. I’d sung in choirs till the age of 15, so that was always my musical foundation. Then Marcus mentioned this great, experimental in-house choir [REC] who were keen to collaborate. It was a very open-ended commission, basically ‘do what you want, use the choir somehow’. I don’t think either Marcus or I realised how much I needed to write this piece”.
Poignant, dreamlike and beautiful, and written following the sudden loss of her mother and brother, ‘Oracles’ was Silvera’s way to transmute her grief into a cathartic work of art. “I wrote ‘Oracles’ in a state of absolute urgency and emergency – it felt like I had been buried in the ground myself, and writing this music was a small pocket of air, my chance to breathe again”.
In 2011, the song-cycle was debuted with REC, and the following year was performed as part of a sold-out concert on the Roundhouse Main Stage, earning Silvera a nomination for a British Composer Award. She then returned to the Roundhouse Theatre to make a live recording of the piece, which forms her second full-length album. The recording features Silvera as a soloist, a choir led by Josephine Stephenson and a stellar line-up of guest musicians including pianist Bill Laurance (Snarky Puppy), double bassist Jasper Høiby (Phronesis) and drummer Jacob Smedegaard (Fiction, Du Blonde) as well as Simran Singh (violin), Anne Chauveau-Dhayan (cello) and Naomi Morris (percussion).
The result is a haunting yet life-affirming collection of songs whose lyrics explore loss, love, salvation and the journey towards acceptance, themes that are underscored by beguiling, weaving choral lines, mellifluous Debussian piano melodies, subtly off-kilter percussion and rapturous strings, all unified by Silvera’s dynamic vocal style which evokes the delicate yet theatrical prowess of Kate Bush, combined with what the Arts Desk described as a “Björk-like spontaneity’.
Conceptually, the piece follows the arc of a ‘quest’ – a folk tale that begins with a search for a tangible or symbolic goal and ends with a triumphant return home. “On reflection, I see my quest was to fathom this experience and - though it no longer existed in the familial sense of the word - to find my own way back home”. ‘Skeleton Song’, an Inuit-myth inspired tune about a woman who is sung back to life, is a fragile yet powerful paean to the female figures surrounding Silvera who “painstakingly pieced me together again”. ‘Catherine Wheels’, the epiphanic closing song, whose swelling strings push the song-cycle to an emotional climax, celebrates “the kind of earth-bound, steadfast love” that allowed Silvera to finally reckon with her past and come to terms with the present.
Says Silvera, “I can honestly say, I found it so moving that post-performance, audience members would come and speak to me about their own experiences of bereavement. Making that human connection and finding we are not alone is perhaps the greatest healer of all”.
Silvera will take a stripped-back version of ‘Oracles’ on tour across the UK and beyond later this year.