• Agnes Obel | The Queen's Hall

  • Wed, 01-04-2020 at 19:00
  • The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
    85 - 89 Clerk Street
    EH8 9JG Edinburgh
Agnes Obel | The Queen's Hall - The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh - Edinburgh

PCL PRESENTSAgnes Obel+ River into LakeWednesday, 1st April 2020The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh------------------------------Doors 7pm14+ Only, under 16's must be accompanied by an adult------------------------------Tickets on sale 6th September via SEE Tickets and Tickets Scotland:https://www.seetickets.com/event/agnes-obel/queens-hall/1425719In one way or another, we all suffer from myopia these days.“I had the title from the beginning,” says Agnes Obel says ofher new record, Myopia – her fourth studio album and her firston Deutsche Grammophon (Europe and Asia) and Blue Note (North America). “It started from a sense that I was struggling to escape from my own tunnel vision. Everything around me seemed to reinforce those tendencies, so I wanted to depict that sense of being trapped within a state of mind with very little peripheral vision, where what is left to be seen only getsincreasingly intensified.”And yet, this intensification is necessary. To createsomething, to fall in love, to tell a story – all of themrequire some form of myopia. “To a certain extent it’snecessary when experiencing and understanding the world,”explains Obel, “but the question is, how far you can ventureinto the myopic state of mind without losing your grip andbalance, and can you trust yourself to know when you have gone too far? Can you truly trust how you experience things? For me, the feeling has increasingly been that I could not.”Obel’s latest album has been a solo project in every sense(like her three previous studio albums: Philharmonics,Aventine and Citizen Of Glass): she has spent countless hoursalone in the studio over the past two years writing,recording, producing and mixing. It is a singular effort inwhich every element is intertwined. “I build a bubble in whicheverything becomes about the song and the world it represents– not just mentally, but also practically, with the room,equipment, instruments, the words, and so on. Myopia is inmany ways my main technique for writing and producing music. I depend on it to be able to work”.During this recording period, Obel experimented with theprocessing – in particular, re-amping and altering the pitchof the vocals, rhythms, violin, cello, felt-piano, celesta,melotron and lutheal piano. “I wanted to find ways to melt thepitched sounds together, creating a sense of the presence ofanother experienced time,” she says, “twisting the sounds intoa kind of organic inner synth or voice that seem only toappear in your head.”Obel’s voice also takes a central role on the album. “Ipitched it up and down, so it either became more instrument-like or suggested the presence of other voices than my own,like from a memory and past experiences or voices belonging toother people.”Recorded mainly at night, it’s no surprise that a sense of thenocturnal is strong throughout all ten tracks. But such aschedule led to a bout of insomnia; in researching a cure,Obel became fascinated with the cultural history of sleep andthe ancient idea that problems with sleep are linked to a fearof death. And so ‘Broken Sleep’ was born. “Relics of this ideaare still to be found in our language today, in the way wedescribe both death and sleep,” she explains.“Sea of trees, calling humans / To hang like leaves from thewillow”, she sings, referencing this idea, before asking “Willyou level me with a dream?” It’s one of the gentlest songshere; the piano lines sound as if they’re floating on clouds,the vocals soft and clear. Much like deep sleep, it’s a songthat wraps the listener in a comforting embrace, warm andsafe.The heart of the album is punctuated by two, contrastinginstrumentals; the fragile, ethereal ‘Roscian’ and theunsettling ‘Drosera’, building defiantly into a shortcacophony of strings before fading away, like a storm passingoverhead. Both serve to play with the tension and mood – thetitle track is sandwiched between them – and showcase Obel’sability to do both light and dark. The former is very much tothe fore on ‘Parliament Of Owls’, another instrumental, whosecyclical strings convey a hopeful poignancy, while a pianochord progression moves continually downwards, conveying thesense of being increasingly submerged into the state of mind.In the past, grief has been a fertile topic for Obel; severalsongs from her previous album Citizen of Glass obliquelyreference the weight of loss we all experience at some point.‘Island Of Doom’ takes that one stage further, imagining howsomeone might live on in your own consciousness. “They’restill in there along with everyone else you know, they’re justnot going to appear in physical form anymore,” says Obel. “Andwhen the overwhelming intensity of sorrow and loss has settleddown, you can find comfort in meeting them in that memoryspace at some point.”Preceding the closing tracks ‘Promise Keeper’ and ‘Won’t YouCall Me’ is the stirring ‘Can’t Be’, which Obel describes as“a song about the creative potential in doubt and fallingapart ”. Over pitched vocals and a striped down rhythms, Obelrecounts that sinking feeling of losing your grip. “Can’t keepme calm / Can’t keep me whole”, she sings; “I can’t be.”“I won’t be no effigy” is repeated at the song’s close, aparticularly stark image yet a defiant refusal. “People alwayswant to understand you within a certain context or category,and I really dislike that. As an artist, you get this veryheavy categorisation applied to what you do, and you just haveto sort of accept it,” she says. “But I love the idea ofexisting in a world where you can be idiosyncratic andambivalent, and there’s space for that.”Over four albums, Obel has carved out that space. Myopia isthe sound of someone wrestling with the world and what oneperceives to be reality. “I’ll be ok, ok, ok”, she sings withbelief at the very end of the title track, as if trying toconvince herself. Agnes Obel has investigated and revealed hermyopia and remains hopeful that the rest of us can too.