anaïs – one of the UK’s most enigmatic and beautiful new voices – has today released a magical 13-track project titled ‘Darkness At Play’. It has been produced by the legendary Om’Mas Keith (Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z) and long-time collaborator Aston Rudi.
anaïs arrived in late 2017 with her critically-lauded debut EP ‘Before Zero’. Featuring breakthrough track ‘nina’, the EP was a fiercely intelligent introduction that explored her fascinating life so far (for those unaware, she was born in Toulouse, France but of Senegalese origin, grew up in Ireland and Oakland California before graduating from NYU).
If ‘Before Zero’ was focused on anaïs childhood and the lessons learnt from spending life on the move, with no sense of home or belonging, ‘Darkness At Play’ is her brand new testimony, born out of vital necessity and a year spent tormenting the state of the planet. Told through the eyes of one of the most naturally intuitive artists out there, it’s is an honest and unfiltered look at the world that surrounds us all, shedding both light and dark in equal measure. Effortlessly, and with her subtle but powerhouse vocal, she verbalises the well-worn sensation of often feeling like an outsider looking in on a world spinning out of control.
‘Darkness At Play’ isn’t a record that shies away from the ugly truth. Within its enthralling 11 tracks and 2 interludes, anaïs tackles various overwhelming themes including capitalism and greed, struggle and disempowerment. It’s no surprise that one of anaïs biggest influences throughout writing the project was Sorrentino’s ‘The Great Beauty’ – a film that constantly battles with the nostalgia of the past and the uncertainty of the future. The first 6 tracks find anaïs at her most reflective and despondent – on ‘oh man’ she worries for the future generations to come, where on ‘paper wings’ she uses her exquisite song-writing to plead with those in power to repair some of the communities that have been dismantled under their control.The albums most hauntingly cynical moment comes with the stunning ‘count to five’ where anaïs appears to lose faith altogether.
But this is by no means a record devoid of hope. Threaded throughout ‘Darkness At Play’ are moments of resilience and positivity – never more apparent than on ‘woman’ – a track that was inspired by her mother, grandmother and the other ‘divine female energy’ in her life. It’s a brilliant moment for the record as anaïs finds comfort in her womanhood and it gives her hope for the future. From there, the album builds towards a truly uplifting ending with penultimate track ‘100 flowers’. On ‘100 Flowers’ anaïs answers her own questions and carries her listeners out of the chaos, finding faith ultimately in humanity. By end of the record, you’re left with the message that only love in abundance can help us understand each other and explore the challenges we face.
On ‘Darkness At Play’ anaïs says –
“My intent when writing this body of work was to find a way to reconcile my reality with my naive and somewhat childish hopes for the world.
I’m always observing the human condition and it leaves me simultaneously in marvel and in horror at our nature.
Our struggles are so deeply rooted and interconnected, they demand a thorough unraveling; and our political and economic regimes are so inherently hypocritical and malicious, that they require total dismantling. How then do I, a young black woman, create and provide healing in the midst of this chaos?
My hope is this music can help us recognise our collective and personal power.“”
To coincide with the release of the project, anaïs has shared a beautiful video for ‘woman’, directed by Ana Sting. On making the video, anaïs says –
“The video was directed by Ana Sting. We wanted to create a visual poem for womanhood. Celebrating the women around us, our ancestors, those who inspire us but also ourselves. The intention there was to highlight the power that can arise from our connectedness and encourage the pursuit of freedom in togetherness. ”
‘Darkness At Play’ track-list
count to five
never been home