As played on John Peel on Radio 1, Radio ATL in Belguim and Radio FSK in Hamburg.
First up and just when you thought it was safe to leave the bunker, Emma's House Recordings of Manchester weigh in with another mighty addition to their already veritable bulging catalogue of delights. This time turning their attention closer to home, pressed on 10 inches of white vinyl and again limited to a meagre 200 copies, which should by rights fly out the door pretty sharpish is the 'Philokalia' ep by Manchester based duo Anna Kashfi. Words cannot describe adequately the way these 6 tracks of tortured acoustic fragility kept me bound in a state of wonder and awe. Reference points are easy, try Mazzy Star and the Delgados for starters, and remember the mention of these bands in particular are not easily thrown down. 'Philokalia' is a mature collection for a duo who have only been around for 18 months, it hurts, it weeps drowning in it's own sense of despair, it's lonely and tugs emotionally at the most ardent of stone hearts. 'Rain keeps falling' and 'Farewell Song' follow a similar pattern, acoustically driven to delicate extremes, Sian Webley's vocals imparting a seldom heard longing quality that graze over the sympathetic natural qualities of the dutiful though distantly envisaged chords. However the jewel in the crown can be found on 'Three Wise Men', if any record could come near to the dizzy heights of Mazzy Star's immortal 'Fade into you' then this it, prickling and picking at the senses, 'Three Wise Men' unearths a hitherto hidden beauty, fractured elegance toying with ethereal smoothness, a real emotional tug of war. 'Used Up' is equally tantalising if only for the way it seems to echo the charges laid down by REM on 'Everybody Hurts'. 'Sunburn' is bestowed with an eerie charm, replete with steel guitars and wind chimes, its haunting looped chord work has the effect of trapping you on a spiders web awaiting your fate, a tensely delivered meisterwork. With a self released album under their belts entitled 'About the Boy' I've a distinct feeling that Anna Kashfi will be around for a long time to come, don't know about you but I'm off to hunt down that debut CD. The only word of warning I can give is that if your cheque isn't already in the post for this, then don't come crying six months down the line wondering what all the fuss is about.
Mark Barton Losingtoday.com - December 2002
Anna Kashfi are probably one of the best, most understated and unfortunately still least well known americana bands in the UK at the moment, but theyíre really not going to keep that up for long if they keep releasing material like the six songs that form their new "Philokalia" EP. Hailing from Manchester, the material up until the present has been nothing short of remarkable, but it still doesnít prepare you for the sheer splendor of any new material when you hear it, the EP being a point in question. Released as a limited edition 10Ē white vinyl, itís probably a good thing that you have to turn over after track three as it adds a little bit of longeivity to an EP thatís over with far too quickly, for no other reason than all six songs are near perfect. Itís a strong word to use, but you only have to listen to the first two songs to gain a measure of the bandís talent. Sianís vocals are as slight as ever but perfectly accompanied by Jamesí instrumentation, and the songs themselves - the usual comparisons with Mazzy Star and Sparklehorse donít really do justice to the emotional wreck tracks like "Three Wise Men" can quickly metamorph even the most wary of listeners into. Itís a pity that given the format and limited edition, more people wonít get to hear it, but thatís all the more reason to get a copy. See the website for more details.
Americana-uk.com - December 2002
"Anna Kashfi is not a person but a duo of Sian Webley (vocals) and James Youngjohns (guitar). They have a new 6-track vinyl EP on the enterprising Manchester label, Emma's House Recordings. The title Philokalia is taken from a J.D. Salinger novel, which is appropriate. Holden Caulfield (from Salinger's Catcher in the Rye) and Anna Kashfi are kindred souls: both strangers in the world and both imaginary characters. If the painful self-consciousness of adolescence survives in Anna Kashfi songs, they also retain the romance and rapture. They gently haunt the senses."
Mike Butler Metro NorthWest - January 2002
Beautiful mini-album (currently vinyl only, but scheduled on CD early 2002), from Manchesterís Anna Kashfi, ostensibly a duo featuring the remarkable talents of vocalist Sian Webley and multi-instrumentalist James Youngjohns. Sparse, acoustic tenderness across six tracks that ooze class and taste, Webleyís voice casting a seductive spell, controlled menace bubbling under the surface. Youngjohnís accompanyment is suitably assured, built around an acoustic guitar framework with florishes of harmonica and keys, alongside unobtrusive contributions from Alan Cook on pedal steel and Chris Ingoldís banjo. The country inflections of closer "Day His Star Dies" are reminiscent of Gentle Creatures era Tarnation, sung by a less self-aware Hope Sandoval. Philokalia is thankfully devoid of faux-Americana however, placing itís trust in song, not artifice.
Matt Dornan Comes With A Smile - Spring 2002
Another sweet collection of acoustic led tracks from the Anna Kashfi outfit. "Rain Keeps Falling" is stripped down acoustic guitars and a clean vocal take. Think the purity of Ithaca and the presence of a modern folk sensibility with a reflective consideration of Nu-Americana. Intensely emotive and melodic. There's something about the slide guitar that puts a tear in my eye, especially as the vocals round up in a richly textured sound that reminded me of Karen Carpenter. "Farewell Song" follows much in the same vein with a harmonica intro and the strong, sweet voice of Sian Webley, which never seems to falter. "Three Wise Men" is more downbeat, with some drums keeping a steady beat in the background and the vocals floating over the top of a swaying and washed out, effected soundtrack. There's plenty of modern tricks with distorted echoes and an automatic ambience, that really hooks you into the music. "Used Up" takes us back to the truly excellent acoustic guitar playing. Just voice and guitar, it's a naked example of what this band are about, wonderful arrangements, sad melodies and fantastic singing. That's it - just one guitar and a voice - it doesn't get any simpler than that. The keyboards and harmonica slip in for the second half, but the demonstration has been made. "Sunburn", gets darker with more minimalist acoustics - smoldering in fact, but chopping in at an overlong 6 minutes. "Day His Star Dies" has a great distorted intro - the songs delivered in a dirty MW transmission style, then chimes in, with full americanised wonder and sleazy stars and stripes musings. Anna Kashfi are an exciting prospect, with their crossover between folk, americana and leftfield indie. As ever, a pleasure to listen to.
Made In Manchester
The name of this label has special significance for me, as Emma's House by The Field Mice was the first proper indie record I ever bought, and one that set me off on a journey of discovery of all sorts of other indie/underground sounds. If it wasn't for Emma's House it's quite possible I'd never have discovered non-chart music and therefore wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today.
The band Anna Kashfi are alt-country. I was always a bit wary of country music in the past as much of it was so tacky, but since then I've discovered that, like alternative versions of other genres, alt-country generally isn't naff. Anna Kashfi certainly aren't. This two-piece band consisting of vocalist and percussionist Sian Webley and multi-instrumentalist James Youngjohns, make well-crafted, classy songs with intelligent lyrics. Used Up and Sunburn are especially superb, but the whole EP (6 tracks) is worth checking out, even if you don't consider yourself a fan of country music. Limited to 200 copies though, so be quick! Label info from emmashouse[at]onoffonoff[dot]org; band info from email@example.com
blissaquamarine.net - Summer 2002
Anna Kashfi are a Manchester based duo, Sian Webley and James Youngjohns playing melodic and haunting, dark, alternative country/Americana with a very distinctive sound. They are joind by other musicians on their gigs and recordings; the duo forming a nucleus of a sort of band with a floating membership. James, the guitarist, and I made contact by chance and he sent me a copy of this excellent six track CD. Very active around Manchester and beyond, the band has an informative website with lists of gigs )as well as sound files so you can hear them for yourself).
They are receiving radio airplay in the UK(John Peel and his Radio 1 show) and Europe, and hopefully are on the verge of becoming much more established - they deserve to be. As good as anything states side - a true voice. (4/5 feathers)
Sacred Hoop - Summer 2002