Album of the week : Aventine - Agnes Obel

On 2010′s Philharmonics, Danish pianist Agnes Obel infused her songs with a deep and resonant melancholy. Sparse, sombre and filled with gently beguiling melodies, it was an unexpected hit in her native Denmark (as well as in France, Belgium and her adopted home of Germany), and one that provides a decent idea of what to expect from this, her second

Like her debut album, Aventine opens with a short instrumental. ‘Chord Left’ sets the scene, and a fine introduction it is, too, minor chords ringing out like question marks as a plaintive, pretty lead shape dances atop them. Joined by two other piano solos, ‘Tokka’ and ‘Fivefold’, it’s clear, as she’s stated in many interviews, that French composer Henrik Satie has been one of her main influences

‘Fuel To Fire’ follows, and points towards the larger scale and increased confidence on display. Obel’s voice, a soft, velvet thing, is more expressive, more assured, and while the backing on her first album could be brittle and skittish, here it is fleshed out by rich strings and percussion. It floats brilliantly into ‘Dorian’ , an enchanting and gentle number that allows you to forget everything around you as Obel’s words melt into the gentle piano

Title track ‘Aventine’ is the track with the most obvious string arrangement as the plucking effortlessly compliments Obel’s calming voice. ‘Pass Them By’ is an angelic and lingering track full of feeling mixed with astounding strings, guitar and sultry vocals

The whole record is soft and slow; it’s sad, for sure, but never despondent. Rather, the mood created is exquisite, and caught at the right time, captivating. It’s emphatically not an album for all moods and seasons; its languid, contemplative pace befits early hours, solitary listening, but it befits them perfectly. ‘Run Cried The Crawling’ closes out the first side of the album and Obel’s delivery has never been quite as affecting. “I’m alright here in your arms, darling,” she insists over its outro, an admission she packs with sentiment. She modifies the adverb, just once, to “only in your arms,” implying that it isn’t quite the simple romantic declaration it could be perceived, either

‘The Curse’ is Aventine’s biggest, boldest moment, a song which builds from metronomic plucked strings to a stirring finale, in which Obel sketches out a vague curse upon a land which might (or might not) be a “blessing in disguise.” The lyrics throughout are, to say the least, unusual; a series of images encompassing fevers, curses, wintry landscapes and a sense that things are just a little off-kilter

The thought provoking ‘Words Are Dead’ is an emotional and haunting song, offering simple but effective lines such as “you’re dead” and “don’t cry for me” which make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you completely immerse yourself into this impeccable piece of music. The album finishes on an equally emotional note with ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.  This soft and echoing number is the ideal way to end a phenomenal album

Aventine is simply stunning and, if possible, even more captivating than her debut.  It’s nothing short of mesmerising and it’s clear that this ‘difficult second album’ will live up to expectation and could quite possibly surpass the success of its predecessor

Buy it here

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