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Baker's Dozen

Patterns In The Sand: Emma Anderson's Favourite Albums
Jude Rogers , November 15th, 2023 11:49

On the release of her debut solo album, former Lush member Emma Anderson takes Jude Rogers through her favourite albums, from a teenage years soundtracked by Simple Minds and The Durutti Column to her affinity with later 4AD labelmates

Photo by Jeff Pitcher

Emma Anderson’s debut album, Pearlies, is one of the loveliest surprises of the Autumn. It conjures up sonic ghosts of Broadcast, psych folk, French yé-yé pop, and the dreamier moments of a band that signed to 4AD in 1987, defined the most blissful sides of the so-called shoegazing scene, broke up in in 1996 after the tragic death of their bandmate, and reformed just under two decades later, for a short, stormy time.

For Anderson Lush is now a band firmly in the past, however. She is now a solo artist living in Hastings with her daughter, working around her music-making part-time as a bookkeeper. “It’s been, God, 12 years now. I quite like it, actually.” She’s warm, funny company on the Zoom call, glasses perched on her nose, laptop on her knees on the sofa.

Some of Pearlies’ songs began life as roots of songs for Lush, Emma explains; she was left with “bits and pieces of ideas” after their 2016 tour, which broke up prematurely. She became “a bit disillusioned with it all”, and her daughter was only six then, plus she’s a single mother, "so I had a lot on my plate.”

But she kept experimenting with a cellist, Audrey Riley, even getting another singer in to try out a few of the songs she had written. She thought about making music for film and TV instead of more conventional releases and played some tracks to a few people, including her friend, Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie, producer of Lush’s Mad Love EP in 1990, 1991’s Black Spring EP, and their first proper album, 1992’s Spooky. “And everyone I played it to said, Emma, you should make a record, just do it.” She rolls her eyes. “And Robin said, you've got to sing, you know. Emma, what is your problem? Why will you not sing? And I was adamant I wouldn’t. I. Will. Not. Do. It!” She laughs. "We had a bit of a row about it, actually.”

Why wouldn’t she? “I didn’t have the confidence. I’ve always thought my voice isn’t good enough, to be honest. But when Robin said I’ll help you out, but if you won’t sing on it, I won’t, I didn't have much choice.” That was just before the Covid pandemic, she points out. “So it had taken three years by then after the reunion for me to get that confidence.”

Then in 2021, Miki Berenyi published her memoir, Fingers Crossed. Having not seen nor spoken to her former bandmate for seven years, Emma won’t talk in public at this time about the 2016 Lush reunion nor the book by her former bandmate. She’ll only say that much of what is documented in Miki’s book differs significantly from her version of events. It's clear, though, that Pearlies has given her a solid sense of a new beginning, its palette a mix of blissfulness and eeriness, moments of joy and misty echoes of the past.

On its opening track, ‘I Was Miles Away’, softly propelled by a Hammond organ figure and electronic drums, Emma sings in her lovely, unaffected, direct English pop voice: “Been in the warming sun alone / Swimming through space when time's postponed / See if I make it on my own.” Perky dream-pop gives buoyancy to ‘The Presence’: “It’s been hard to work it out, but I’ve found a way to push through/But at last the time has come and I’m finally rid of you”. Pastoral melodies allude to the passing of time in ‘Willow And Mallow’: “Every woman, every man, all the patterns in the sand are fading fast”.

Richard Oakes provides guitar on four tracks (the stunning ‘Xanthe' is a highpoint, a distant cousin of the Mia Farrow-sung theme to Rosemary’s Baby) and the LP is produced by James Chapman, aka Maps, who was suggested to her by Nathaniel Cramp, boss of her label, Sonic Cathedral. It’s been great, she says, surrounding herself with “different people, really positive and upbeat people.”

So has her confidence now grown? “It’s funny, I said this to someone yesterday – the difficult thing about this is I'm on my own now – but the great thing about this is, I'm on my own now! I mean, it’s quite scary in some ways, but easier in others.” She smiles. “You know, I’m 56 years old. It’s time I did something on my own. It’s taken this long!”

Pearlies is out now on Sonic Cathedral. To begin reading Emma Anderson’s Baker’s Dozen, click the image of her below