Swallow Hill presents Anna Mieke with Distance Walk and Nathaniel Riley on Tuesday, February 14th.
Anna Mieke’s world radiates with an intense heat that lies closer to the desert or the jungle than her hometown of Wicklow, Ireland. On her second album Theatre, she invites listeners into this warmth, enveloping us in a vivid dreamscape that mirrors her lush and adventurous upbringing. Her music is the surreal soundtrack of a vast personal plain steeped in nostalgia, family, memory, death and dreaming—where gritty reality and romanticism meet. This duality is the thematic core of Theatre, which focuses on the conflict between permanence and temporality, the immaterial and material, and how memories of places and people fade, warp, and reinvent themselves over time. Ultimately, though, Theatre is more about sensation than theme. “Perhaps the music enables some form of dreamlike movement towards an imaginary place,” says Anna Mieke. “I’m just creating a sound world to escape to, built from moments in time. I hope it reminds someone else of their own experience…memories of youth infused with an intense warmth, like that childhood sensation of summer.” A stunning artistic statement, Theatre finds Anna Mieke at her most assured and poetic as she contributes a challenging, exciting new voice to alt-folk.
As a child, Anna Mieke cycled over The Pyrenees to Gibraltar, learned Maori songs while living in New Zealand (age 5) and, later, traditional songs in Bulgaria. “It was a surreal time,” she recalls of New Zealand. “Climbing glaciers and an active volcano, trekking through jungles..I remember that otherworldly feeling, somewhere totally alien to all your senses.” Theatre recalls this familiar feeling. It is a world in bloom with deep evergreens, shocks of red coralline beneath umbered skies, and auburn leaves scattered across captivating soundscapes. It is all filtered through a terracotta vision that burns like deep heat and penetrates the surface with the humidity and claustrophobia of a concrete city; words like ‘asphalt’, ‘tarmac’, ‘plastic’ are layered over delicate guitar melodies – their urban harshness unapologetically highlighting day-to-day ugly mundanity instead of sugar-coating it with a romanticized invention of a possible past. “The lyrics are also fairly rooted in the ugly, mundane side of things. I guess that side feels grounded and real to me, because it surrounds me, it is my actual environment,” she says.
And yet it’s no accident that following Anna Mieke’s self-released, 2020 debut Idle Mind, many more miles beckon. Winning praise in her homeland from The Irish Times and Hot Press (including a nomination for RTÉ’s Folk Award ‘Best Emerging Act’), she has collaborated with Crash Ensemble, Adrian Crowley and Linda Buckley, and has performed on a number of prestigious stages and venues across Ireland and overseas (with headline tours in Ireland, Spain and the UK, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival). In May 2022, with her band, Anna Mieke undertook a week-long residency at the Irish Arts Centre in New York City, culminating in three shows, performed in collaboration with New York-based artists Charlotte Greve, Grey McMurray, Anna Roberts Gevalt. She recently toured across Europe, performing musical arrangements of poetry by James Joyce. Across her career, she has supported a myriad of revered acts such as Lisa Hannigan, Lankum, Rozi Leyden, and This is the Kit, among others.– 16+, under 16 admitted with a ticketed parent or guardian