Agnes Obel review – Myopia: New album inhabits a desolate place of twilight solitude

Elisa Bray
Agnes Obel in cover art for Myopia: Agnes Obel

Danish songwriter Agnes Obel’s fourth album was sparked by a struggle to escape her “own tunnel vision”.

“I wanted to depict that sense of being trapped within a state of mind with very little peripheral vision, where what is left to be seen only gets increasingly intensified,” she said. This intricately crafted album captures that feeling profoundly.

Myopia was recorded mostly at night, in creative isolation at Obel’s Berlin home studio, as with her previous albums Philharmonics, Aventine and 2016’s Citizen Of Glass. During the writing process the creatively ambitious musician suffered insomnia, and “Broken Sleep” – one of the first songs released – merges anxious pizzicato strings, circling piano and harmonising choral vocals.

The entire album inhabits that desolate place of twilight solitude, and forces its listener into a mode of introspection. It’s a record to experience alone. With the exception of “Drosera”, and its tritone dissonance and eerie flutes that recall the score to a horror film, there’s a comfort to being pulled into Myopia’s contemplative, isolating territory.

“Island of Doom” tackles grief as soaring voices wash over muffled lo fi piano. Her gliding vocals are pitched high and low so as to melt into the musical minimalism as another instrument. Within these exquisitely produced tracks, which often eschew the typical chord progressions of pop music, Obel also experiments with altering the pitch of violin, cello, felt piano, celesta and mellotron.

Building mournful strings over descending piano chords on “Parliament of Owls”, Obel creates an engrossing instrumental track of melancholic beauty. It’s followed by the equally involving and cinematic “Promise Keeper”, which begins with a gently sung folky melody and the drone of a sustained piano key building tension until the middle of the track releases, powerfully, into cascading vocals. This cohesive mood piece casts a hypnotic spell.