The follow up to acclaimed 2010 debut Philharmonics, Aventine finds Agnes Obel in a darker, more plaintive mood, which must to some degree reflect the whirlwind three years that have followed her breakthrough. Selling over 500,000 copies worldwide and touring almost non-stop in the years since, Philharmonics made Obel a star in her native Denmark and across half of Europe. Aventine is just as good if not better than her first record.
Written, arranged, and produced by Obel, it’s a record that presents a clear sense of musical direction. Principally voice and piano, fleshed out with carefully placed strings, it’s sombre, hypnotic and gloriously reserved; never sentimental or gloomy. There is a general air of melancholy, but only the kind that accompanies healthy, sensible emotions, such as the realisation summer has become autumn or a favourite television series has ended for ever. It’s hard to imagine listening to it in the throes of sorrow, for example, without concluding it may just be more sensible to get up and go for a brisk walk. MP3 player at the ready, of course.
The album opens with a delicate, heart-melting instrumental ‘Chord Left’ that sets the tone for a dream-like, sonically swirling first half. Lyrically it’s a case of straining to make sense of the fragmented narratives, although Obel uses her voice so successfully to create texture and atmosphere, it’s sometimes easier just to let it all float by. The world-weary ‘Dorian’, the folkly heart-break ballad ‘Fuel to Fire’ and the title track ‘Aventine’ pace purposefully like time-lapse clouds across an unidentifiable landscape. The second instrumental ‘Tokka’ marks a subtle change of pace that brings Obel’s voice to the front, most notably on the bold, confident ‘The Curse’, a triumph of the perfectly-weighted build and false ending. All the signs point to Obel as a songwriter going from strength to strength.
Review by: Rachel Devine
Agnes Obel – The Curse (Berlin Live Session)
Album Stream via Deezer
Aventine released via Play It Again Sam
Order it on Amazon