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Baker's Dozen

Strength In Strangeness: The Anchoress' Favourite Albums
Elizabeth Aubrey , May 17th, 2023 09:12

Ahead of a show this Saturday at London's Southbank Centre, Catherine Anne Davies takes us through the 13 albums that have defined her life and work as The Anchoress, from childhood memories soundtracked by The Carpenters and lifechanging encounters with the Manics and PJ Harvey as a teen, to newfound infatuations with SZA and The 1975,


Kate Bush – The Dreaming

This album for me kind of goes hand in hand with Vespertine in that it’s the other record that made me think it's possible for me to make music in the way that I wanted to, which was to write and play and produce everything myself. I remember when I was first doing demos for some major labels. They would invite me into the studio and I would just, every time, every day, come out crying because of how terrible the experiences were in terms of me having zero agency. I just wanted to go back and work in a shop like I did when I was a student. Nothing about the experience made me happy. It made me realise that the thing that did make me happy was the process of making a record and being a producer was inherent to that.

Kate Bush's The Dreaming showed me that it was possible. It was the first record she did where she got to be the sole producer – she’d co-produced on the previous ones. This is the first record where she has full control and it’s brilliantly, batshit, bonkers. For me, it’s the first time you really get to experience the full breadth of her brilliance and her sonic eccentricity. In the same way that I constantly reference Vespertine, The Dreaming is another, with all its incredible sound collage, the spoken word voices, the theatricality, its multi-genre leanings - the jukebox style record that it is - if you listen to my first album, it's very much influenced by that. It changed my way of thinking about music entirely – thinking that it’s okay to have a ballad alongside a kind of screamo metal song!

Once that clicked with me, I stopped making music for a year because I thought if I can’t do it on my terms, I wasn’t doing it at all. Those experiences in the studio certainly made me not want to go back to that in a hurry, as did how I was treated as a woman. Like many, I had terrible experiences with men in the industry and I ran away from it for a time: I didn’t want to be anywhere near an industry that made women feel like this. I was also constantly asked what school I went to, making me realise few people from backgrounds like mine were here. I was so naive about the industry: I had no idea what it was like and frequently legged it out of meetings.

I went to America and just accepted that I was giving up because trying to have that control in the music industry that I found myself in as a young woman, felt impossible: the labels wouldn’t let me play anything, let alone produce or develop anything. I was staying in far Northern California and after a good few months away from it, I slowly started to find the confidence to play again after those terrible experiences. Very gradually, I started writing music again, but on my own terms, with no label, learning how to play things myself, how to put a record together from scratch. Eventually, my debut album emerged on my terms and I’ll always credit this record with showing me that was possible, and for finding my way back to music.