Danish tour-de-force Agnes Obel sent the SU’s Anson Rooms into a daydream with her ambient, classically-tinted folk. Fans include David Lynch and Epigram‘s own Luke Unger.
Silhouetted against a blinding light, Agnes Obel’s voice seems to float thickly through the congregated spectators, carried by dry ice smoke, lulling listeners into a heady trance.
Performing at the Student Union’s very own Anson Rooms, Obel’s individual mastery of sound was quite apparent. Her soft, whispered vocals act as more of an instrument than a form of narration, beautifully complemented by the deep melodies of the two cellos and muted percussionist surrounding the artist.
L.A. Salami provided a support act for the musician, playing a handful songs that, in all honesty, weren’t really appreciated by the noisy crowd as much as they should have been. I felt a little sorry for him as his carefully crafted lyrics were chatted over in anticipation for the next act. Maybe it was the fact his youthful voice sung the songs of an old man, perhaps the licence to sing such lyrics comes at the price of age. I found ‘Day To Day’ a stand out song from his set, being deeply personal, almost a frank conversation with himself concerning his past, that the 1200 strong crowd had walked into.
Instant blue hues, cast by the backing lighting, upon the headliner’s arrival seemed to allow the crowd to melt away, isolating the ghostly forms of Agnes Obel and her band. Instantly, without word, Obel dove into her set, silhouetted against the blinding light behind her, leaving her with a sense of anonymity.
Identity to Obel is second to the music she forms, a being in itself, a bifurcation of the artist and art. Obel definitely seemed to have a sense of theatrics throughout her performance, the colour tone shifting to swathe the band in red for their more ‘ominous’ songs such as ‘On Powdered Ground’ and ‘Philharmonics’.
It is impossible not to mention the multi-talented musicians playing with Obel, helping her to engineer the undulating sounds blossoming from the stage. All musicians added to the eclectic vocals that blew across the audience like a ghostly wind, whilst all played several different instruments throughout the set. For a solo artist to have such support the sound may have been oversaturated. However, in this case the collective was a perfect blend of talent and finesse.
There is no denying that Obel is a unique artist through the individual and haunting sound she has created. However, it did seem at times that her songs followed an almost formulaic pattern. Wispy lyrics that floated into angelic harmonics, accompanied by a tinkling piano melody and somber cello, all making it seem as if pauses between songs were just a pause for breath in one big one.
Words become merely a formality in the transmission of sound that made the hairs erect and spines chill, goosebumps acting as thousands of tiny monuments created in testament to Obel’s performance.
Pauses between songs did offer the audience Obel’s own commentary behind the meaning of what was next, giving a previously unknown insight to many of her songs. Framing songs like ‘Riverside’ in, what she described, as “the coldest winter I have ever experienced” brought a whole new dimension to the nursery rhyme-eque melody leaving me unable to get out of my head images of ice, and tundra landscapes. Whilst the new songs from her latest album went down well, the crowd pleasers of ‘Riverside’, ‘The Curse’ and ‘Familiar’ were what the crowd had been waiting for, sending waves of new energy along the gathered rows of people.
I’ve used the word conversation a number of times throughout this review, but I feel as if that’s what Obel’s performance really strove towards. Words become merely a formality in the transmission of sound that made the hairs erect and spines chill, goosebumps acting as thousands of tiny monuments created in testament to Obel’s performance. Music was not evoked in the Anson Rooms, but art.
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