Label: PIAS Release date: 04/10/10 Link: Myspace Mixing modern minimalistic styles of composers Yann Tiersen and Philip Glass with the quirky folk styles of Joanna Newsom and Ane Brun, Berlin-based Agnes Obel has created quite a striking debut. Philharmonics consists of simple yet beautifully constructed melodies, repetition and her ghostly. It requires a lot of patience this album, you have to listen to it to appreciate its beauty and although this is a massive compliment, it is also unfortunately the album’s downfall. From the very opening track, a solo piano composition, Philharmonics requires more than just an open ear but an appreciation of the stillness of the beauty, something which many might find difficult and shrug the album off as boring. The opener ‘Falling, Catching’ is the first of the instrumental songs of the album. The repeated piano line is dreamy and draws you steadily into to the album, I couldn’t think of a more perfect introduction. Despite its repetition and dreaminess, the album does have some catchy songs. ‘Riverside‘, the second track off the album follows on nicely from the first track with its repeated piano line. ‘Brother Sparrow’ sees an air of optimism introduced into the album. The subtle atmosphere remains but the song is much more spirited than some of the other album tracks. ‘Beast’ is one of my highlights of the album. The harp works stunningly with Obel’s voice and the chorus contains some beautiful melting harmonies. The central track of the album ‘Louretta’ is another instrumental composition. The track offers a break from the swooping vocal melodies and hypnotic harmonies offered in the earlier tracks. Obel has sighted many classical influences such as Bach and Debussy alongside contemporaries such as Cat Power. Debussy’s piano music, with its soothing turning melody lines seems to heavily influence many of the album tracks and the instrumental compositions such as ‘Louretta’ almost act as a tribute to these influences. Reminding the listener of the fusions between folk and classical music on this album, but this is already quite obvious. ‘Avenue’ then offers a change of scene with the introduction of some very modern sounding instruments. Another stand out track from the album is ‘Philharmonics’, the title track from the album. The layering of the scraping cello, and haunting piano melodies work quite beautifully with her voice and the swerving harmonies at the end are a particular highlight. ‘Wallflower’ is another completely instrumental track, this time a little darker than the previous tracks with the cello part disjointed but beautifully fitting with the piano. The last two songs on the album ‘Over the Hill’ and ‘On Powdered Ground’ are both melodious and the last track in particular contains some beautiful interaction between the strings. I have come to like this album more and more from listening to it again and again. Although the music is very simple in most places, it takes a while to appreciate the simplicity and realize that the layering on some tracks and the vocal melodies are actually strikingly difficult and also very beautiful. Some people will hate this album, and I agree in some places its just not engaging but Agnes Obel has achieved where many bands before have failed. She has created an intriguing album of beauty and stillness which captures the ears and the heart. Photobucket