First of all, let’s point out that even though Agnes Obel’s fourth opus is titled Myopia, the Berlin-based Dane manages to musically transpose this visual disability using several acoustic treatments that more or less hit their targets. The most blatant example of this is Roscian, a track in three-quarter time that employs a sepulchral piano.
Myopia is an album that (not always anecdotally) portrays the adventurous undertaking of moving out of one’s way in order to see a distant reality more clearly, a reality that was previously opaque. In fact, it’s no coincidence that one of the tracks is called Camera’s Rolling: Obel uses this metaphorical development to organically highlight the idea of opening up to the world, and not always settling for such a closed-off environment.
For her, the main tool for this opening up is ‘experimentation’. Myopia feels like an extravagant and ethereal laboratory, where the main test subject is the singer’s voice, accompanied by a piano and mostly melancholic synths. Some give their bodies to science; on her part, Agnes Obel has given her voice to music, testing out a plethora of different effects. Like the test tubes of a mad scientist, her singing boldly intersects and blends together, always beautifully harmonic. Her voice is twisted in several different ways, a constant which is at the core of songs which are somewhere between Kate Bush and Scott Walker. She embarked on this adventure alone in her Berlin studio, even though there are moments here and there when a few chords are played by others.
There are eerie moments (Drosera and its repetitive chords wouldn’t be out of place in a Dario Argento film), airy moments (Won’t You Call Me with its warm, cosy choirs), ones that evoke the torments of insomnia (Broken Sleep) or death (Island of Doom); her songs astonish above all with their extreme elegance. With Myopia, Agnes Obel hands us a shiny spyglass with which we can clearly see the beauty of why she seems to exist: music.
In 2013, Agnes Obel met with Qobuz do discuss her Aventine, and unveiled a few keys to help understand her universe of music. Time for a catch-up: