Brian John Mitchell (Silber Records)
says he asked Anna-Lynne to release a record for his label a day after
he had heard her for the first time. No wonder, after listening to the
first 30 seconds of "Crush the Bird", a gorgeous bare song – acoustic guitar
and a pure vocal enhanced by a small room ambience. She releases it under
the pseudonym Lotte Kestner, singing about relationships, love and loss
of love tales, delivers it without the need to hide behind production or
sophisticated arrangements. Angelic voice and a guitar.
~ Shlomo Sonnenfeld, LoFiles.org
For: Edith Frost, Tiny Vipers, Laura
Byline: An arresting collection of
portable pacific northwest melancholy kept simple and beautiful on an acoustic
guitar and looped vocal accompaniment.
China Mountain can be found on a map.
Right...There. Lotte Kestner's musical influences are traceable as well.
On China Mountain we hear echoes of early nineties slowcore bands like
Idaho and Hayden, we get the sense of the strong female singer-songwriter
signed to Sub-Pop, K, and Kill Rockstars record labels, as well as flashes
of the faraway hazinesss of Laura Gibson's latest ambient/improvised project
with Ethan Rose. China Mountain, like its musical influences are rooted
in the northwest. China Mountain is a floating island in the sky, untracable,
unlocatable, umapped. Felt more than seen. Recorded on an 8-track in the
middle of Marfa, Texas, Kestner takes her quaint, closed, influences and
rolls them across the expanses of Texas-plain nothingness. Her minimal
compositions sound vast, big enough to get lost in, but quiet enough to
sound like someone singing in the motel room next to you. Singing close
to the microphone, Kestner's voice seems to overwhelm on the first listen
but tapers back on subsequent spins allowing a more three dimensional soundscape
to emerge. Were those trumpets on "Compasses"? Sleigh bells on "Leif Erickson"?
I am not going to ruin the suprise. Kestner's voice, while often adorned
with only skeletal guitar lines and occasional looped vocal arrangements,
swirl and form into a cloudy Wang Hui painting, all mist shrouded and depth-perception
challenged. It is hard to imagine Kestner's voice accompanying the mundane,
repeated acts of domesticity. Frequent nature allegories tie this record
to the expanses of a dusk-fading field or a choked forest full of man-sized
ferns and moss-covered trunks. Take this album for a spin. A hike. A walkabout.
A pilgrimage. A hadj. You will be in good company.
~ Ryan Hall, Tome to the Weather Machine
lotte kestner is the solo project of
trespassers william’s singer-songwriter anna-lynne williams. this is a
pretty delicate record, and i definitely have to be in the right mood to
listen to it - when in the right mood though, what a record! the first
song is one of the saddest things ever, and it kinda sets the tone for
the rest of an album. try mashing together joanna newsom and will oldham
or something, and you might be close to what this sounds like. its pretty
sparse; mostly just her voice and guitar (with the odd melodica and quiet
woodwind instrument), but her voice is so sublime that she could get away
with it completely a cappella. do not expect any urgency here. this is
very gentle. very slow. like creaking floorboards. some heartache. some
optimism. a bit like floating. it is a grower, and something you need to
give attention. away you go...somewhere on your little shimmering boat....
cccrrrssshhhhbbbuuuuuhhh (the sound of waves, ya know? ya know!). “fainted
twice / once like butterflies / and once like ice.” lovely.
~ Feels like a Rainbow
I missed this album the first time
around (2008). Timing is a funny thing, for as much time as there actually
is, it has an uncanny knack for being extremely precise. Had I come across
this album two years ago, there’s a fair chance it wouldn’t have resonated
as much as it does now; so, I use the word ‘missed’ quite on purpose as
it seems the re-release of China Mountain was timed to show exactly what
my Australian winter has been lacking.
Lotte Kestner, the solo project of
Anna-Lynne Williams, delivers a down-tempo folk album that is both reminiscent
of her work as singer-songwriter with Trespassers William, and distinct
enough so as not to be derivative. Anna-Lynne’s moderately hushed and dreamy
vocals also give some welcome warmth and depth to the delicate, gently
moving songs. Much like Mazzy Star-era Hope Sandoval, the emotion is largely
in the words themselves, and they unravel in a similarly haunting fashion.
What sets this apart the most is a
wonderfully near-fragile sense of the whimsical, which is as earthy as
it is light. It’s like the Little Match Girl instead sold all of her matches
and bought a guitar. Now grown up, she no longer finds solace in striking
a match for the momentary flare and longing so intently as to create vivid
imagery of the things she desires yet remains distanced from. Instead,
she sets a softly glowing candle, reminisces and wonders; encapsulating
moments she has experienced with a fond embrace – be they happy, sad or
somewhere in between.
Whimsy and folk do have a tendency
to go hand in hand, but it doesn’t always work when dealing with the complications
of relationships. There’s a danger of making light of either the subject
matter or the intensity of the emotions. Often the point is lost or falls
short of connecting with the audience on a deeper level through the unfortunate
and seemingly superficial nature of whimsy itself. With China Mountain
it not only works, but it’s done beautifully. By giving them that sense
of fragility, it keeps the songs out of the clouds and much closer to the
heart – whose wistfulness is just as susceptible to being fractured by
The primary desire still seems to
be to connect, to share and be a part of something that sustains instead
of burning out and leaving fingers decidedly singed. While these things
are spoken of in detail, they are given enough space for the perspective
to remain tender rather than veer towards outright melancholy, bitterness,
or worse, overly sweet sentimentality. Through Lotte Kestner, Anna-Lynn
Williams explores various aspects and effects of distance, both near and
far. She also provides the listener with opportunities to close those distances
– on ‘Temperature’ for example she promises “I will sing la da da da with
you“, and it’s just too lovely an offering not to sing it back.
~ Angie Mack, [sic] Magazine
Charlotte Kestner was certain a type
of woman, the kind of woman that finds herself living as a character in
a novel by Goethe, the kind of woman who makes narrators rejoice and despair,
love and live, and end their stories with tragedies.
Lotte Kestner might be the same, depending
on the kind of day on which her music finds you. Not every day is a good
day to confront those ghosts of our own heads, the long-dressed heroines
of a long-dead Weimar. The songs reach out - threads waiting for the pin,
bare, with voices clinging to softly-played guitars like night swimmers,
treading water amid the cold broken reflections of the moon. They beckon
to you, but you can't go in alone.
~ The Torture Garden
German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
looms large over Western society and his interest in incorporating many
cultures into his philosophies is a large reason why we live in a global
village today. Therefore, it is unsurprising that a young woman from Seattle
would name her solo debut after a character in Goethe’s novel, The Sorrows
of Young Werther. With China Mountain, Anna-Lynne Williams is giving a
voice to the heroine unrepresented in letters written by Werther, which
form the basis for Goethe’s novel. Assuming the voice of Lotte Kestner
is an ambitious task, considering the source material, I do not think Williams
is attempting a revisionist perspective; instead, she is merely identifying
with the tragedy that befell the young woman of Wahlheim.
I have no intention of asserting that
this album is directly aimed at giving a voice to a specific literary character
in the way that fandom gives voices to characters of Buffy the Vampire
Slayer. I am more interested in the way Williams echoes the concerns of
a character representative of a deeply rooted archetype in the tragic discipline
as Goethe once did in 1774. The timeless essence of a tragedy like this
is what links cultures when the details seem to create distance, and at
a time when some societies seem so distant from each other, reestablishing
linkage in small ways reverberates beyond the release of an album.
This tragedy, assuming responsibility
for another’s pain, manifests in Williams’ lyrics in such a delicate and
heartbreaking way that even the strongest person would, as she sings on
“Fainting Spells,” faint “once like butterflies and once like ice.” Some
of her lyrics address the unfair nature of a one sided courtship (“do they
make flowers for this/ what color means you don’t care how she lives”),
the type chosen by Werther, while others address the guilt felt indulging
such admiration: “did I try too hard loving/ crush the bird you’re holding.”
And these are all in just one song, “Crush the Bird.”
Williams brings the theme into modern
terms with “Cattleya,” introducing insomnia not as a curable ailment for
the drug companies to tackle, but as an indication of emotional sensors
working overtime: “but I’m not free/ til you say this life is worse without
me.” The idea that our societal problems cannot be solved with a pill is
never mentioned, but we are all familiar with promises of a restful sleep
when all we receive is a temporary pass from our problems. Williams intends
to solve Lotte Kestner’s problems, but she requires some cooperation. Her
adept translation of such a complex emotional battle suggests Williams
may have some familiarity with unrequited love, but whether it is direct
or indirect I have no basis to even guess. I can only be among the grateful
that a woman with a gift for expression chose to address such a tragedy.
I have written all about her lyrical
directness, something more opaque in her work with Trespassers William,
but I am able to hang on to every word she sings because of the minimal
arrangements. Sparse strings and spaced out pianos fill up the landscape,
with “Lula Boat” and “Leif Erikson” being the exceptions. While “Leif Erikson”
is an Interpol cover that is probably included for personal reasons unbeknownst
to me, “Lula Boat” is something that could have easily been on a Trespassers
William album with its allegorical word play, electric guitar and drumming.
Aside from those tracks, though, the album is very consistent sonically
and feels like an outpouring of focused songwriting that had no place in
any of Williams’ other projects. It’s not always accurate to call a side
project focused, but in this case even the artwork reflects the album.
Designed by Heisuke Kitazawa, the image is entitled “A Portrait of Lotte
Kestner,” and depicts woman holding a book from which her unattached and
faceless head emerges attached to the head of a deer. I see timelessness
and reflection in this image, something China Mountain balances well.
~ Mitchell Bandur, Stereo Subversion
So I am finally posting on Lotte Kestner’s
China Mountain, another great album this year which came out of nowhere
(for me at least – and it has been out for months already). If you
are a member of the Last.fm group Slow-coustic, you are more than aware
of this incredible singer-songwriter Anna-Lynne Williams as I have been
pushing her on all that I possibly can!
Well, actually you may know her from
Trespassers William where she has been bringing in her soft, breathy vocals
to work on a regular basis. While I think she does a stellar job
with TW, she really excels on this release and comes into her own.
While it doesn’t stray too far from what we are used to hearing from her
previous work, this is more of a personal/intimate album in my opinion.
Whether it is the story of her recording it in her bedroom over the course
of almost a year or if it is the subtle use, just a slight bit (did I only
say a touch) of electronic in the finalizing stage of the album.
I personally think the one aspect that has really grown on me is the recording
of her vocals. It is almost as if she is purposefully not singing
directly into the microphone on some songs with slight use of echo and
in the next song you have clear, crisp and haunting vocals – stellar.
This makes it even better for me, the aspect of lo-fi goodness wrapped
up in beautiful arrangements with great recording/mastering to a final
While I am very comfortable in the
shoegaze/indie/downtempo realm, singer songwriter Anna Lynne Williams has
made me a full-on fan. While I do tend to gush on artists I enjoy,
it is warranted here, and I need you to feel the same way! So join
in on my love-fest with Lotte Kestner with a small introduction below.
The stand out tracks “Leif Erikson” and “Compasses” are below, but visit
her on her MySpace or CD Baby to learn more and pick up a copy.
~ Smansmith, slowcoustic
Lotte Kestner is the solo project of
Trespassers William’s singer/songwriter Anna-Lynne Williams, recorded over
a year in her bedroom, and mixed in a Seattle studio with Trespassers bandmate
Matt Brown. While most of the album is made up of layers of Anna-Lynne’s
voice and acoustic guitar playing, there are brief appearances from Jeff
Martin of Idaho, Ross Simonini of Trespassers William, and Toby Campbell
of Anomie Belle, on a number of instruments. As well as harmonica, keys,
drums, ukulele, and harp played by Anna-Lynne.
Over the past few years, Anna-Lynne
has lent her voice to songs by the Chemical Brothers, Minotaur Shock, Noise
Unit, Phononoir, Anomie Belle, Au Revoir Borealis, and AFI.
In the vein of My Bloody Valentine,
Jolie Holland, and perhaps even Codeine, those remarkable shoe-gazers that
were part of Sub Pop’s early catalog. Williams’ music is moody, inward,
and her lyrics are wonderfully unpredictable.
~ Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Anna Lynne Williams has one of the
most intoxicating voices in modern music.
Even though it doesn’t matter what
she’s singing–the mood translates well through melody and instrumentation–it’s
lucky for the listener that the lyrics are included in the CD booklet.
The sheer poetry of the songs is remarkable.
~ Seattle Sound
Anna-Lynne Williams has one of those
crystal-clear voices made up of shyness, loneliness and quiet despair.
SoCal has fond memories of Trespassers
William, the Orange County-bred dreampop outfit who fled to the Pacific
Northwest around the time 2004’s “Different Stars” was worming its way
into our ears. Matt Brown and Anna-Lynne Williams have released precious
little TW music since 2006 (only two EPs), but Williams has been involved
in other projects — collaborating with Texas folk artist Robert Gomez as
well as doing a solo album as Lotte Kestner. The latter work, titled “China
Mountain,” came out this summer on Silber Records, and it’s a sweet collection
of spare, acoustic folk. “Temperature,” for one thing, reveals that it
doesn’t have to be cloying to rhyme “tra-la-la-la” and “la-da-di-da.”
~ Kevin Bronson, Buzz Bands
This deep and earthen soulful folk
singer hails from Seattle and seems quite akin to the weather typical in
the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Singer Anne-Lynne Williams
has endeavored to make quite an interesting solo side project under the
name of Lotte Kestner, and it's growing on us.
Generally found in the appreciated
shoegazer band Trespassers William, this woman recorded her solo sounds
in her basement bedroom (you don't get much more indie than that). Playing
simple acoustic guitar, mixed in with some harmonica, percussion, keys,
and other instruments like the harp and ukelele, Anne-Lynne is quite a
Here music may not be much of a mood
upper, but we like her sincerity and pretty voice. She is quite the lyrical
poet, so listen to her beautiful collection.
~ New Band Daily
Silber Records have a stable of fine
thoroughbreds including Lotte Kestner... You can get Lotte Kestner's download
release China Mountain direct from Silber here
The blurb about this project reads:
'Lotte Kestner is the solo project of Anna-Lynne Williams (Trespassers
Williams). A cross between White Chalk era PJ Harvey & early Joan Baez,
she sings songs that would be equally at home on a beatnik’s record player,
a hippy’s 8-track, or some hipster’s iPod. Minimal, sparse, majestic. Guitar
& voice tell stories of hope for love & loss of love & the
difficult navigations of human relationships.'
I get what the press release is trying
to say but actually this stuff is not totally referential, yes there are
the obvious folky references but it is different. I get really bored with
mediocre acoustic guitar music. I hate the caterwauling and badly strummed
out of tune, out of time six and twelve string (the twelve stringed ones
are worse) songs that proliferate the Internet and street corners of our
world. Come the revolution all the guilty will be lined up against the
wall.... Lotte Kestner is safe...
~ Peter Bright, System Culture
I recently have skipped a couple of
whispery girl-in-bedroom recordings, for its vagueness and shyness which
become weakness, but Lotte Kestner's recording shows full attention, and
a care for perfection with the minimal of instruments. Her whispery voice
alone has this empty room effect on her voice (on the first track), so
this is obviously another bedroom recording with acoustic guitar, but as
much attention was given to sparse arrangements, of nothing more than needed,
like vocal overdubs, electrified guitar, piano, organ and even some small
orchestration somewhere. There's lots of contemplation, lying down on pillow
daydreaming on the being, some wishing fors, a recognition in love with
a sympathetic understanding (-and the notification of a different practice-),
like all the thoughts that come back to you before sleeping before mobilizing
oneself before the next day, this is now reorganised in a poet's state,
the being which now is art. (The art work on the front cover fits very
Lotte Kestner is in fact the solo
project by Anna-Lynne Williams (of Trespassers William), recorded over
a year in her bedroom (indeed) with Trespassers' bandmate Matt Brown. She
herself played harmonica, keyboards, drums, ukulele and harp. The other
instruments come from additional occasional appearances from Jeff Martin
(Idaho), Ross Simonini (Trespassers William), and Toby Campbell (Anomie
~ Gerald Van Waes, Psyche van het
Lotte Kestner ist das Soloprojekt von
Anna-Lynne Williams, bekannt als Mitglied der wunderbaren Williams Trespassers.
Musikalisch sind die Unterschiede zu deren träumerischen Shoegaze
nicht allzu groß. Ein wenig leiser, sozusagen die folkige Variante
des Duos aus Seattle. Singer-Songwriter meets Dream-Pop und Lo-Fi. “China
Mountain”, das Soloalbum unter dem Namen Lotte Kestner hat zwar schon zwei
Jahre auf dem Buckel, macht aber nichts. Da ihre Musik keinen zeitgeistigen
Strömungen unterworfen ist spricht nichts dagegen, erst jetzt über
die Dame zu schreiben.
Und warum gerade heute? Gestern lag
eine Mail von Silber Records in meinem Postfach. Es ist das Label, auf
dem nicht nur das Soloalbum von Anna-Lynne Williams erschienen ist, sondern
auch weitere schöne Musik aus den Abteilungen Shoegaze, Ambient, Folk
und Post-Rock. Das Label erinnerte mich noch einmal an ihr Portfolio und
an eine gelaunchte Webzine mit dem Namen QRD. Dort gibt es an die 60 Interviews,
vielleicht auch für Musiker interessant, mit Gitarristen jeglichen
Se avete mai sentito i Trepassers William,
riconoscerete la voce femminile in quella di Lotte Kestner, o meglio conosciuta
come Anna-Lynne Williams. Una piacevole sorpresa dopo la notizia di un
nuovo album del gruppo. Ora, l’album, viene ristampato dalla Silber Records,
ottima casa discografica che crede in progetti di vario genere musicale,
ma sempre caratterizzati dalla passione per la musica e dalla ricerca.
La voce la fa da padrona, possiamo
definirlo un lavoro acustico emozionale dove gli strumenti sembrano quasi
distrarre l’ascoltatore; delicati tocchi di chitarra, un piano che s’intrufola
nel momento migliore e tecniche melodiche che impreziosiscono il tappeto
vocale della cantante. L’intimità, oltre che nella musica, si può
trovare anche nei testi che sono una perfetta trasposizione del sonoro
su carta; un disco di questo tipo avremmo potuto trovarlo sulla Secret
Eye, anch’essa attenta al folk.
Perfette e delicate, le tracce, scorrono
veloci e senza pause, non ci si annoia ma si resta affascinati dall’arte
di Lotte Kestner, capace di riprendere “Leif Erikson” degli Interpol senza
rovinarla in nessun modo. “Crush the bird”, “Compasses” e “Face Shape”
sono tra le migliori, anche se difficile separare le canzoni dal disco
stesso perchè sembra un lavoro unico in diversi piccoli atti.
Artisti così dotati dovrebbero
essere pubblicizzati in tutta la rete e tra gli amanti della musica.
~ Velvet Goldmine
Poiché il nome scelto per questo
suo debutto solista potrebbe far passare ancor più inosservato un
album già deliberatamente distribuito attraverso canali sotterranei,
è il caso di svelare subito il mistero intorno a Lotte Kestner,
che altri non è se non Anna-Lynne Williams, ovvero l’ammaliante
voce femminile apprezzata negli album dei Trespassers William.
Mentre un nuovo lavoro della band
è già annunciato entro l’anno in corso, pare proprio che
i suoi componenti abbiano inteso concedersi ampia libertà in progetti
paralleli, se è vero che dopo il chitarrista Matt Brown con Disinterested
adesso è la volta dell’elemento caratterizzante dei Trespassers
William a intraprendere un’attività solista.
Il lavoro è ovviamente tutto
incentrato sulla voce di Anna-Lynne che, supportata da pochi collaboratori,
si cimenta in maniera esplicita con un cantautorato al femminile delicatissimo
ed essenziale, che dei tratti della band conserva soltanto le atmosfere
di incantata malinconia, qui peraltro calate in un umbratile contesto acustico,
costituito da melodie appena accennate e da un cantato tanto intimo e cullante
da risultare persino timido nella sua fragile dolcezza.
Su scarne note acustiche, intervallate
soltanto da saltuari accenni pianistici o da un’ovattata guitar ambience,
ad enfatizzare il contesto etereo dell’album, Anna-Lynne spazia tra bisbigli,
gorgheggi e vocalizzi che si rincorrono in spirali lucenti, a tratti specchiantisi
nella loro cristallina purezza ma, più spesso, intese alla costruzione
di vere e proprie ballate, dalle melodie definite e dall’interpretazione
Così avviene nei brani in cui
musica e testi si sposano in un unicum toccante, da cui traspare la partecipazione
della cantautrice a piccoli mantra vocali dall’immediata presa emotiva
e dalla spiccata attitudine armonica. Benché, infatti, l’album non
presenti cospicue variazioni lungo i suoi undici brani, canzoni come l’iniziale
“Crush The Birds”, “Compasses” e “Cattleya” riescono a restare facilmente
impressi per la loro grazia e il fascino che trasuda dalla voce di Anna-Lynne
e per l’immagine della fanciulla che con sensibilità tutta muliebre
sembra cantare alla luna di solitudini e malie amorose.
È infatti difficile restare
indifferenti alla soavità di versi quali “and you know that I’ll
wait up/ as if though for my true love/ and you know that I’ll wait up/
did your heart get cold right away” o all’accorata ripetizione di “if the
stars stick why can’t I?”, passaggi in grado di catturare, con la semplice
autenticità delle loro pronunciate sfumature emotive, più
tangibili nei brani dalle strutture meglio definite (oltre a quelli citati,
merita una segnalazione la spiazzante cover degli Interpol, “Leif Erikson”).
Proprio in questi episodi, l’interpretazione di Anna-Lynne si fa più
decisa, rifuggendo con piglio personale tanto gli schemi del cantautorato
folk quanto facili emulazioni di artiste del calibro di Liz Fraser o Hope
Sandoval, i cui nomi ricorrono in maniera quasi inevitabile quando si ha
a che fare con la suadente delicatezza di una voce di valore eccelso tra
quelle delle cantanti attualmente in circolazione.
Se la grazia fosse l’unico canone
per la valutazione di un’opera, “China Mountain” potrebbe reputarsi un
capolavoro assoluto; ma anche così, nonostante le sue poche variazioni,
questo lavoro delinea la fisionomia di un’artista dotata di una sensibilità
cantautorale che esalta l’unicità della sua voce unica, adesso risplendente
in tutta la sua bellezza anche in questo nuovo e diverso contesto solista.
~ Raffaello Russo, Onda Rock