“Primal and beautiful, vulnerable and strong, this is my record, ‘Hunter’,” said Anna Calvi in a statement when she first announced her third studio album. It was written before the dawn of #MeToo, at the end of an eight-year relationship and when she was tired of the constant portrayal of women as passive victims in the media.
“If I was a man in all but my body / Oh, would I now understand you completely?” she sings on opener ‘As A Man’, laying out the album’s mission statement. ‘Hunter’ sees Calvi paired with producer Nick Launay – Nick Cave’s producer of choice. While Calvi and Cave share a certain stately, cinematic atmosphere, as well as an assured dynamic that wonders between gossamer and monstrous, it’s actually Launay’s work on PiL’s ‘Flowers Of Romance’ that drew them together here. Compared to Calvi’s previous records, there’s a touch less polish here, the hinges loosened and the edges left sharp.
The title track carries the graceful, aching melancholy of Bowie in his latter ‘Blackstar’ years, while the simmering brimstone of lead single ‘Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy’ and ‘Indies Of Paradise’ sees Calvi’s message, guitar virtuosity and untethered vocal range all honed together as a knock-out one-two sucker punch. ‘Swimming Pool’ and closer ‘Eden’ carry her knack of Ennio Morricone-sque filmic dreamscapes to a much more realised realm, but are wonderfully anchored by the more primal rushes.
On the firecracker ‘Alpha’, she’s both vulnerable and predatory. On howling album highlight ‘Chain’, she constantly wanders between being girl and boy, revelling in every moment of the chase. This is an album of extremes, but they’re all bridged by bold and fluid movements of an artist refusing to be either man, woman or victim – always the hunter.