Anna Calvi’s Hunted, a remix EP of songs from her last full-length Hunter, is a rare accomplishment in that it is a collection of “remixes” of a sort that are at least equally as good as the originals while still standing apart from them. Some of the seven songs pulled from Hunter on Hunted are, in essence, but not actuality, acoustic versions of the originals. Others act as a kind of remix, by adding a featured artist to the production.
Hunted is like the micro-dose version of Hunter, wherein each song contains the same melodies, climaxes, and roughly similar performances to the original product but in a more intimate, and therefore uniquely intense format. This scaling down in production but not quality makes the versions on Hunted worth listening to and experiencing as their own unit, apart from the original versions. Anna Calvi manages the feat here of releasing extra, seemingly superfluous material that avoids seeming like a filler album or an incident of runaway ego. When listening to Hunted and the original versions, switching back and forth, I am unable to decide which versions are “better.” Perhaps, to get back to the slightly silly micro-dosing analogy, it just depends on the experience you prefer at the moment.
The tone of this EP – which should be able to stand on its own apart from Hunter—is immediately different from the previous album, by beginning with the atmospheric, haunting “Swimming Pool.” Hunter started with the rocking, propulsive “As a Man,” which doesn’t even appear on Hunted. Here, with the new “Swimming Pool,” the inward journey of Hunted is made clear. The title change also becomes evident as a smart adaptation. While Hunter reflects the aggressive, decisive imagery of its title, Hunted reflects the more vulnerable state of prey as opposed to the predator. “Swimming Pool” here retains its atmospheric beauty, but the addition of Julia Holter’s higher, more ethereal vocal range above Calvi’s lifts it into someplace special.
There are three significant other vocal features on this slim EP, and all deliver what you would expect from each artist, but in the distinct Anna Calvi mode. “Eden” features Charlotte Gainsbourg, who lends her whispery vocals to the song, bringing the track down to Earth while Anna Calvi is now in the position to lend the piece entrancing vocals that show off Calvi’s mastery of her vocal range. “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy” employs Courtney Barnett, who makes the song fit her style effortlessly. The song opens with an electric guitar squeal, very fitting for Barnett, and the performance of both singers aligns more with Barnett’s lackadaisical, slightly sardonic delivery as opposed to Calvi’s more electrically tense performance of the original. This somewhat surprising interpretation of the song is nevertheless fascinating, as the slowing down of the performance and music allows us to appreciate the details we may have missed in the rush of the original version.
Finally, Bristol band IDLES joins Calvi on “Wish,” contributing more verve to the punk freneticism of the chorus while singer Joe Talbot adds the only male voice to the record. Talbot’s deep voice rumbling beneath Calvi’s adds a new, unique texture to these interpretations.
The songs which don’t feature a new artist are nevertheless equally fascinating. “Hunter,” one of the standout singles from Hunter, is a great song no matter which way Calvi performs it. Still, here Calvi proves her skill and vocal control by layering the song carefully until it reaches its catharsis, controlling the rise and fall of the track through her voice, giving the song its power without repeating the same performance of the original. “Away” and “Indies or Paradise” equally prove that the new versions of each song here are more intense, heightened, and sometimes raw versions of each song. By stripping down the production and making Calvi’s voice the overpowering element, the songs on Hunted peel back the layers of Hunter and let us savor each of these seven tracks in new, fresh ways.