Artist of the Month: ANNA
Artist of the Month: ANNAJanuary 10, 2022
For someone who’s usually on the move, there’s a certain stillness to ANNA. It’s in her eyes, which are undistracted and steady, and it’s in her hair, which is straight, glossy and rests on her shoulders. Her voice is full of the celebration and vitality of Brazil, and everything she says is so considered and un-rushed it’s as though this jet-setter, superstar DJ-producer has all the time in the world.
For those who don’t know, ANNA — aka Ana Miranda — is one of the biggest techno artists working today. In a typical non-COVID weekend, she’ll play three or four gigs in three or four countries — sometimes across multiple continents — alongside Richie Hawtin, Amelie Lens or Jeff Mills, at venues like Gashouder or DC-10. And when she’s not on the road, she’s in her Barcelona studio producing muscular, guttural techno, which she releases on a label like Domino, Plus 8 or Drumcode. On January 21st, ANNA will release her next EP on Afterlife, which she describes as emotional and melodic but full of big club energy, and she’s got a few unexpected releases coming up next year as well, the details of which we’ll get to shortly.
It’s unsurprising that ANNA’s whole world is music. After all, her father owned a nightclub called Six, where she started DJing when she was 14 years old — she noticed the DJ was playing the same stuff every night and felt she could do better. She wasn’t wrong. The club was in a small city about two hours from São Paulo, and all six floors were usually packed every weekend. ANNA cut her teeth playing Brazilian music until she found her way to the Techno Room. “That’s when I fell in love with everything,” Ana says. “I used to look at the vinyl and didn’t know the name of the track ‘cause I couldn’t speak English, but that was the beginning of my journey of discovery.”
She pauses. “I have to send you a picture of my dad,” Ana says. “Just so you can understand. Like… he’s a very particular person.”
The picture shows Ana sitting on a sofa next to a man in his 60s wearing a low-cut mesh tank top, covered from scalp to toes in tattoos. The only ink-free skin is his face, ears and fingers. “He’s very free, you know,” Ana says. “He doesn’t feel like a father, he feels more like a friend… Sometimes a son.”
Ana makes a point of noting that her mother would drop her off at gigs all around Brazil. “She never pressured me about anything,” Ana says. “She always believed that I could do it, you know?” An unconventional and creative life was always in store for Ana.
She established herself on Brazil’s DJ circuit from 2002, playing local institutions with national drum & bass heavyweight DJ Marky. Ana remembers just two female DJs on the circuit at the time, but felt there was nothing stopping her from making music her career. To this day, though, she feels women face double standards in the industry. “You know, we don’t do anything. We don’t make our own music. We don’t know how to mix, we don’t know how to play. We’re just there for our body. This is the standard and we have to prove the contrary.”
ANNA started producing when she moved to the Czech Republic with her then-boyfriend, DJ/producer Wehbba, in 2009, and her bookings gathered pace when she joined a DJ agency in 2010. She decided to move to Europe in 2015 because her unapologetic sound wasn’t getting much love in deep-house-loving Brazil. But even though she’s been living in Europe for six-plus years, ANNA’s style is still-rooted in her home country. “Everything I know, the music, the mixing techniques, comes from Brazilian DJs. And I was lucky because they’re all really talented.”
It’s clear ANNA’s home is behind the booth. Her confidence and assuredness transmute directly to the dance floor. She gives the crowd what they want before they even know they want it — you’re in safe hands with ANNA. She’s like the captain of a great ship, expertly steering HMS Techno from one shore to another, but Ana says her career only truly set sail when she stopped trying so hard.
In January 2017 Ana went on a neurofeedback training course designed to unlock creativity. It wasn’t supposed to be a spiritual experience, but it unblocked something within her which had such a profound impact she emerged as an entirely different person. “It was a turning point,” Ana says. “It changed my life. I wasn’t eating and I was sleeping three hours a night but I had this extra energy running through my body — they call it Kundalini.”
The life of an artist, whatever their medium and however successful, is full of wanting and yearning and comparison. It’s never enough — there’s always more to be done, and it doesn’t matter how many gigs get booked or countries visited or accolades won. But Ana was surprised to discover the effect of standing still, taking a breath and letting life be. Her spiritual practice taught her that everything she wanted was already right there.
And just like that, the opportunities came. In 2017 she released her rapturous Haze Moon EP on Rukus and played 51 gigs from Melbourne to Malta to Malmo. In 2018 she lapped the world a few times, released four huge tracks on Kompakt, NovaMute and Clash Lion and made remixes for Jon Hopkins and SCB. Just when she thought she’d peaked, 2019 came along, and with a DJ Mag cover and her first release on Drumcode. But it seems strange, listing out Ana’s accolades like this, as though this is the important stuff. Ana finds so much joy in everyday life that last week she looked at a raspberry and cried.
On paper, 2020 was a bad year for ANNA. She lost the entirety of her income and split with Wehbba, her partner of 14 years, although they remain production partners and still run their studio together. “If I focused on everything I lost last year I would be super depressed,” she says. “But after all these years of meditation and inner work you get more centered. So I gave my energy to something that was screaming inside me that wanted to be brought to life — that is sound healing, ambient music, energy healing and meditation.”
In her year spent looking inwards, Ana made an ambient album called Intentions, and the experience of listening to it is other-worldly. It conjures up such deep feelings of peace and connection I didn’t want it to end so as soon as it finished, I listened again. It’s energy-cleansing.
“The album’s called Intentions because it’s supposed to be listened to in the correct order,” Ana says. “Every sound has a specific purpose. So it took a while to make because I selected each sound specifically. Some are there to connect, some help open up, others go deeper, some sounds are there to cleanse.” Ana will publish the intention and purpose of each track alongside the album, so the listener can be swept away as intended. The album won’t be released until mid-2022 — but it’ll be well worth the wait.
This isn’t ANNA’s first foray into ambient. She recently released a remix of Orbital’s “Belfast” to mark its 30th anniversary. ANNA’s interpretation of the track is at once ethereal and robust, cutting between ghostly synths and thudding techno. ANNA was originally invited to do a techno mix, but then one of her managers suggested she create an ambient b-side. As usual, the universe served up exactly what ANNA wanted on a platter. “My manager knows I love ambient music so he just suggested I do it. So I made an ambient version, not knowing if it would work, but just to see what I could create.” It’s illuminating to see these two faces of ANNA side by side. Clearly, both genres express a different need for the artist and together they strengthen her integrity rather than diluting it. Still, ANNA’s not sure if she should be releasing under separate aliases. “I don’t know if it’ll confuse people or if I should embrace everything as a whole. Because I am everything — I am chaos and I am stillness.”
ANNA is slowly revealing this side of herself anyhow, with a new ambient track soon to be released on Coldcut’s label Ahead Of Our Time. “They wanted it to be heart-centered and bring good emotions,” Ana says. “And I love to make tracks like this, so I tried to keep it full of happiness and love, and used a lot of piano because it opens the heart instantly.”
Since COVID, the music industry’s become more open to artists exploring new genres. Lockdown helped make the industry less binary, with many club music producers delving into their softer side and looking to new sources for inspiration. For Ana, ambient is where she goes when she needs to look inwards. “I can touch the heart, I can feel myself, I can explore emotions that come from stillness,” she says. Techno is Ana’s release, and a way to physically connect with people. “It’s about energy, about creating the will to dance and move and release — to celebrate and to feel liberated.” Ana enjoys techno with others. Ambient she listens to by herself.
ANNA’s upcoming EP, due for release on January 21st via Afterlife, scratches that techno itch, although she’s included an ambient track for good measure. Journey to the Underworld is a deep exploration of the dark underbelly of techno and a return to ANNA’s club roots. The title track’s an industrial beast, made to be played to close-eyed dancers in a strobe-lit warehouse. For anyone in doubt of ANNA’s dedication to techno, this track is her response — techno is in her DNA and always will be. “Surrender” steps up the emotion, veering more into the experimental side of the genre, and plays with frequency and soundscapes to add atmosphere and texture to the four-four bass. “Dissolution” — the final track of the EP —feels like an antidote to the energy of the previous two; the musical equivalent of stepping into a sauna after a brutal workout. ANNA says she created all these tracks separately, without thinking about tying them together into one EP, so each one is a private moment of self-expression. Ana says Afterlife always encourages her to explore her hard and soft side. “I can combine my techno side with my emotional and melodic stuff,” she says. “I sent Matteo my Intentions album and he suggested we do an EP mixing ambient and club tracks.”
ANNA meditates up to two hours a day, so it’s no wonder her soul is like a big, still lake. The music industry can be chaotic, which makes her groundedness even more appealing. There’s noise, politics, hierarchies, limits, yet ANNA adheres to none of it. She doesn’t need external fulfilment or mass approval. She already has all she needs, and everything else is just a bonus. It’s funny, she says, because when she first stopped pushing so much, the people around her thought she’d stopped caring. “But it’s completely the opposite,” Ana says. “I was just allowing things to come. I couldn’t be creative with that much wanting, greed, needing. Thankfully I could let go of all this — because it doesn’t help at all. It doesn’t bring you anything.”
ANNA’s EP ‘Journey to the Underworld’ is out on January 21st, 2022 via Afterlife.
Alice Austin is a Berlin-based freelance writer from London. Find her on Twitter.