11-03-2024 Music 8276

Erika Angell - The Obsession With Her Voice

Erika Angell - The Obsession With Her Voice

The singer/composer from Thus Owls shares two tracks from her forthcoming solo album, the newly released "One" and the previously released "Dress Of Stillness“.

The Montréal-based Swedish singer/composer presents the first album under her own name, following two decades as a poetic and audacious force in genre-defying music in Stockholm and Montréal with projects including Josef & Erika, The Moth, Patrick Watson, and her acclaimed art-rock group Thus Owls.

The Obsession With Her Voice is an eloquent work of experimental exploration and feminist power that shimmers, cracks and shatters as it gathers the strands of one woman’s musical life: commanded by Angell's unbound, virtuosic vocal performances and enrobed in avant-electronics, with string arrangements by Jonathan Cayer and acoustic percussion by Mili Hong on select tracks.

Angell’s soprano howl splits the difference between divine and demonic, a performance skillfully unhinged. — Under The Radar

The voice of Erika Angell acts like a guiding presence. — Exclaim

Erika's voice sits alongside the greatest indie female artists who are not afraid of anything. She is ten, twenty singers in one, as if PJ Harvey, Karen Young, Marianne Faithfull, Martha Wainwright and Patti Smith, among others, had provided her with DNA samples to enrich her exploratory palette. — Le Devoir

A note from Erika Angell

"What is art? How can I be it? The essence of one's life, for oneself and for another." ("Let Your Hair Down")

I have spent my whole life exploring and defining art as an expression of who I am, to remind myself to live at the core of existence – to love fully.

My voice has always been at the centre of this process. I remember singing my heart out from the top of a mountain at the age of four – allowing every pore of my being to exist in the moment of flow. A natural thing for a four year old, but harder as an adult. This memory still defines the essence of living to me and it is in this open-hearted state of mind that I wish to be in this world. The practice is never-ending, raw and real – to learn as much as possible, only to forget it and surrender to the flow.

The Obsession With Her Voice is a celebration of my endless love for art and music. It is an attempt to free myself and allow what is to be. To sing what wants to be sung. Most of this music was created when not noticing – rare, beautiful moments of true relaxation – in an otherwise eon-sized ocean of time spent trying to relax.

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 wilfully 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?”

Erika Angell Biography

The Montréal-based Swedish vocalist and composer Erika Angell defies categorization. Across sixteen independently produced albums and innumerable collaborations, Angell has been a poetic and audacious force in genre-defying music. Her voice has been described as “a guiding presence” (Exclaim) that “splits the difference between the divine and demonic, skillfully unhinged” (Under The Radar) and “sits alongside the greatest indie female artists who are not afraid of anything” (Le Devoir).

Raised on an island on the west coast of Sweden, her musical trajectory began in earnest when she moved to Stockholm in 2004 and became a member of noted collective label and venue Fylkingen (the oldest organization in Europe for experimental music and art, founded in 1933). Relocating to Montréal in 2012, her career now spans two decades, characterized by a fearless pursuit of originality, an inexhaustible desire to traverse genres, and a dedication to artistic collaboration.

Angell melds musical territories from classical, folk, rock and pop to jazz, electronic, free-improvised and avant-garde. She is known foremost for her unconventional artistry with the celebrated and Polaris-nominated avant-rock band Thus Owls, which she has co-led with her husband Simon Angell since 2007. Earlier ensembles include the Swedish vocal-bass duo Josef & Erika and the electronic noise group The Moth.

Angell has toured the world extensively in support of these and other projects, counting Daníel Bjarnason (Ben Frost, Sigur Rós), Liam O’Neill (SUUNS), Karl Lemieux (Goodspeed You! Black Emperor), Lisen Rylander Löve (Midaircondo) and Anders Jormin (ECM) amongst her many collaborators. Her distinctive and virtuosic voice has graced recordings and live performances with a wide spectrum of artists, including Loney Dear, Patrick Watson, Leonard Cohen, Kim Myhr, Arve Henriksen, Land Of Kush, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, La Force and The Besnard Lakes to name just a few.

Most recently Angell co-founded the New Music trio Beatings Are In The Body with Róisín Adams and Peggy Lee, and completed The Obsession With Her Voice, a debut solo album of unfettered vocal exploration and expressionist avant-electronic composition to be released on Constellation in March 2024.


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