mon 22/07/2024

Agnes Obel: Philharmonics | reviews, news & interviews

Agnes Obel: Philharmonics

Agnes Obel: Philharmonics

Spooky and autumnal Danish singer-songwriter

Agnes Obel's 'Philharmonics': exuding the bucolic and rustic

Although Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel has professed a kinship with Roy Orbison and his grand musical dramas, it’s John Cale that she covers on her debut album. Choosing the slow-burning “I Keep A Close Watch” from 1975’s Helen Of Troy (Cale re-recorded it in 1982 on Music For A New Society) is telling. Not only does Obel look for and seek to telegraph emotion, she is allying herself with performers and songwriters recognised as passionate and heartfelt.

After her openness, it’s fair to ask whether Obel is similarly affecting. Of course though, both Orbison and Cale have had a few years to worm their way into the collective consciousness. Obel got a gentle push in that direction when album cut “Just So” featured in a German TV ad for Deutsche Telekom.

Like Cale, when he’s not bowing a viola, Obel plays the piano. Additional instrumentation on debut album Philharmonics is sparse and acoustic sounding. After opening with a short, gentle glissando instrumental that evokes Schubert more than any pop template, the first song, “Riverside”, has a rolling, rising-falling melody. Grounded in folk, it exhibits her bell-like, slightly husky, voice. The staccato “Just So” doesn’t immediately sound like a telecoms ad with its plucked strings and gentle – almost beer-hall – melody: this is what Joanna Newsom might achieve if she cast the kookiness aside. “…Close Watch” is skeletal, utterly spooky with close-miked singing. “Don’t break you back on the track” she sings warningly during “On Powdered Ground”.

Obel exudes the bucolic and rustic. Perhaps if Roy Orbison had a lair deep in some wood he’d have sounded this restrained. Indeed, there’s little tonal variation here. Even so, Obel’s moods are affecting and more delicately transmitted than those of her inspiration. Suffused in brown, Philharmonics’ emotions are those of autumn.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

watch agnes obel riverside (youtube)


She is skeletal, utterly spooky and looks like a Bergman character

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