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Agnes Obel

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Agnes Obel Review

Posted by on Dec 11, 2013

Agnes Obel Review


Sparse, somber and filled with softly beguiling melodies, it was really an unexpected hit in her native Denmark (as well as in France, Belgium and her adopted home of Germany), and one which supplies an adequate idea of what to really anticipate from this, her second.

Like her debut record, Aventine starts with a brief instrumental. ‘Chord Left’ sets the scene, plus an excellent introduction it’s, also, minor chords ringing out like question marks like a plaintive, pretty lead shape dances atop them. ‘Fuel To Fire’ follows, and immediately points towards the bigger scale and raised confidence on display. Obel’s voice, a soft, velvet thing, is more expressive, more guaranteed, and though the backing on her first record might be fragile and skittish, here it is fleshed out by rich strings and percussion.

The entire record is soft and slow; it is depressed, for certain, but never despondent. Rather, the mood created is exquisite, and caught at the perfect time, captivating. It’s decidedly not an album for all seasons and moods; its languid, contemplative pace befits early hours, lone listening, but it befits them absolutely. ‘Run Cried The Crawling’ closes out the first phase of the record (‘Tokka’, one of three instrumental passages, marks the beginning of its back end), and Obel’s delivery hasn’t been quite as impacting. “I am alright here in your arms, dear,” she insists over its outro, an entrance she packs with sentiment. She changes the adverb, just once, to “only in your arms,” implying that it’s not quite the simple romantic assertion it may be perceived, either.

The lyrics throughout are for the most part uncommon; a chain of pictures encompassing curses, fevers, wintry landscapes plus a sense that things are only a little offkilter.

It’s at moments such as these that Aventine excels, whenever the constitutional oddness to Obel’s music is matched with sweeping drama; a feeling that there are things at stake, and these things are significant, and very much so.

Ultimately, Aventine is a success of carefully sustained mood; of a depression that’s not too much overbearing as it amazing, and one that lingers in the silences between listens of this uncommon, extraordinarily compelling record.

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