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Erika Angell - The Obsession With Her Voice

Erika Angell - The Obsession With Her Voice

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The acclaimed Montréal-based Swedish singer/composer from Thus Owls and The Moth presents her solo debut. Angell has also worked with Daníel Bjarnason (Ben Frost, Sigur Rós), Arve Henriksen (Supersilent), Lisen Rylander Löve (Midaircondo), Liam O’Neill (SUUNS), Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Patrick Watson and more. Erika Angell still remembers the first time she sang this way. The Swedish-born musician was three and a half years old, alone at dusk atop a hill, staring down at the landscape around her parents’ farm—tangled woods, darkening houses—and from somewhere deep inside her, she found a voice. It was a song without language, without any specific melody; it was flowing and easy and free. “This memory still defines the essence of living, to me,” she says. A memory of pure music: untamed, unhesitant, open-hearted. Four decades later, now based in Montreal, Angell is “coming back to the beginning, somehow” with a debut solo album that reaches back toward that early childhood evening on a hilltop, when the music was raw, solitary and boundless.

The Obsession With Her Voice is an expression of Angell’s inexhaustible love for art and music, a celebration of all the ways she has learned to articulate her instrument, a work of experimental exploration and feminist power that shimmers, cracks and shatters as it gathers the strands of one woman’s musical life. As a child, Angell was taught lieder and opera music by her choir-leader mother; as a teenager in the countryside, she spent all of her days studying jazz; later, she’d explore free improv and post-industrial electronics in a duo called The Moth. 14 years ago, Angell founded the acclaimed, Polaris-nominated band Thus Owls, whose five LPs have traversed jazz and indie rock’s outer reaches. Angell has also collaborated with artists ranging from Daníel Bjarnason (Ben Frost, Sigur Rós), Arve Henriksen (Supersilent) and Lisen Rylander Löve (Midaircondo) to Liam O’Neill (SUUNS) and Patrick Watson, as well as inaugurating the New Music trio Beatings Are In The Body with Róisín Adams and Peggy Lee.

The ten tracks on The Obsession With Her Voice form a riveting collage, blending Angell’s searing and searching vocals with synths and electroacoustics (mixed brilliantly by Sam Woywitka), Jonathan Cayer’s mazelike string arrangements, and incandescent drum improvisations by Mili Hong. Songs like “One”, “Temple” and “Open Eyes” are poetic, through composed song-sculptures, musing on identity and disagreement. “Never Tried to Run” evokes Angell’s childhood idol Nina Hagen, weaving a snaky, sultry portrait of change, while “Up My Sleeve” shivers with a vivid worldliness: the singer in a state of emergency, watching the flames climb higher. Angell never gives in to cold experimentation or the willfully abstruse; even a song like “German Singer,” which narrates a concert over processed vocal snippets and a metronomic pulse, is fundamentally an invitation: a tribute to art’s value, to its power to seduce. Throughout, Angell pushes and processes her voice, plunging overtop noise and percussion, tracing melodies of fearless complexity, instantaneity and conviction. Listen for echoes of Scott Walker’s The Drift, Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch, Brigitte Fontaine’s Comme à la radio and Sidsel Endresen & Stian Westerhus’s Bonita.

“I was interested in the meeting-point between being ‘in’ yourself, ‘in’ your own world, and when you meet the outside,” Angell says. “I’ve never forgotten my evening on the hill—singing freely, without judging myself. Sending my energy out into the air. When I’m able to do that, bridging that breaking-point, it feels like a good thing. For the world, and for me too—to remind myself, and everyone, that we can do it. That it’s allowed. We can hold all these real faces of ourselves, in front of each other, and show each other that attention.” The Obsession With Her Voice is Erika Angell’s attempt to express a feeling: a windswept one, raw and unfeigned. Songs that explode, music that trembles like a vibration on a string—a singer sharing an insight and also a wish. “The sting above the heart…” she sings on “Let Your Hair Down,” “What does it mean? What is art?” And: “How can I be it?”
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