|V2 Records Benelux|
|Debuut solo album van de Zweedse celliste Linnea Olsson. Een prachtige mix van klassiek en pop. Linnea speelt al jaren als celliste in de band van Ane Brun.... lees meer|
There are all sorts of reasons why people become musicians, with some simply fated to pursue the path. It’s not how they start out, however, rather than how they proceed that matters. LINNEA OLLSON is no exception, and this fact is reflected in the manner in which her debut solo album, AH!, unfolds. Stroking out low, mournful notes on her cello, layering them delicately upon one another before teasing out ‘Ocean’’s melody on its higher strings, she sets a tone that predicts an album which might sit comfortably alongside the burgeoning post-classical / neo-classical movement. But to make such an assumption would be entirely wrong: LINNEA OLSSON rarely treads where one might expect.
AH! is a far cry from the work of such artists as Dustin O’Halloran, Johann Johannsson and their contemporaries, who have earned their reputation in recent years with their fusion of classical and modern influences. OLSSON’s work instead has more in common with Arthur Russell – partially thanks to its fundamental integration of a delay modeller and loop station in her compositions – but she prefers to think of herself as having more in common with Julia Kent (of Antony & The Johnsons) and Zoey Keating. So OLSSON may lure us into a false sense of tranquillity with the album’s beatific opening four minutes, yet it’s the title track immediately afterwards that is more indicative of what will follow: staccato notes echoing over an empty landscape in which distant forms seem slowly to transform into discernible substance, her husky voice tracing a playful, magical tune that celebrates a need to “dance” and “twirl” after time spent alone. It’s typical of an album that revels in unpredictability delivered with only the slightest of means, a debut that combines intimate, melancholic contemplation with unbridled, captivating delight. It’s all the more remarkable because – asides from the use of a darbuka (a Middle Eastern goblet drum) – the only instruments on show throughout these compelling forty minutes are LINNEA OLSSON’s voice and her beloved cello.
For OLSSON, inevitably, there was rarely any doubt that she’d end up playing and writing music. She grew up in Halmstad, a small port city on the west coast of Sweden, and began taking cello lessons at the age of six. Brought up by musicians – “I vividly remember sitting in the back of the car with Paul Simon or Beach Boys on full volume from the front,” she reminisces – her friends were also musicians, as were their friends, and her childhood environment clearly had a significant influence upon her work. But though life at home was vital in shaping her aspirations – “Music is a part of my life, like love or food or air, really” – her environment’s natural beauty also inspired a lifelong love of the natural world that is a constant source of inspiration for her lyrics.
There were, she recalls, three pivotal moments in her youth that sealed the direction her life would take. The first was hearing Björk’s ‘Army Of Me’ when she was eleven. “It was one of the best things I had ever heard in my life,” she smiles. “After that, her music was one of my dearest companions for many years.” Soon afterwards, she fell in love with the soundtrack to The Commitments, a collection that taught her that there were broader horizons than her formal training as a chorister had suggested. “The best thing was when I got home from school and nobody else had come home yet,” she continues. “I could put on the CD and only listen to the tracks where the girls sang. I would try to sound exactly like them.”
These two experiences have undoubtedly contributed to the charming eccentricities and bold expressivity contained within AH!, but, in her unusually unpretentious style, OLSSON states that it was a public performance during a wedding when she was 14 that propelled her towards her current position. “I sang at the party,” she grins, “and I remember that one of the songs I sang was ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’. This was the first time I performed singing with that ‘other’ voice, the ‘pop’ voice that I had practiced singing at home alone. And I made an impression. People came up to me afterwards saying, ‘You can really sing!’”
Soon she was in bands, beginning with a school covers group, where she played bass and sang, and progressing on to a duo while she studied at Music College in Stockholm. It was there that she discovered the loop station, and it was this that gave birth to the aesthetic that lies behind AH! But it’s taken a while for her to complete this first record: as well as ongoing work with the band Paintbox, her talents have become increasingly in demand, and she’s performed regularly with acclaimed fellow Swedes Ane Brun – OLSSON is a permanent fixture in her touring band – as well as with Nina Kivert and the award-winning Frida Hyvonen.
AH! was eventually written, OLSSON says, when she suddenly, if briefly, found herself without a lot of work. “I sat down with the cello and it was a bit like a flood,” she says. “I wrote all the songs for the album during a very intense and short period of time.” She began at home alone, but her boyfriend, Fredrik ‘Gicken’ Johansson, soon became involved, mixing and producing as well as providing that all important darbuka. The result is an unforgettable record that, despite its strikingly simple methodology, lingers long in the imagination. This is equally true of the most desolate tracks – like the skeletal ‘Guilt’, the atmospheric ‘It’s OK’ and the almost baroque ‘Never Again’ – and its most upbeat. The latter include ‘All 4 U’, which recalls some of the early Vini Reilly / Durutti Column recordings, and the single ‘Dinosaur’, which manages to redefine concepts of ‘chamber pop’, its bubblegum sweetness mirrored by a playful, neon-flavoured video. OLSSON may – quite literally – carry little baggage, but she brings a lot wherever she travels. That’s the beauty of the technology she employs: it’s enabled her to fulfil a unique creative vision.
“I abuse delay,” she admits. “It is my favourite effect of all times. I felt I wanted to try and perform alone on stage as I´ve never done that before – only when playing Bach suites, that is – and the first time I did it I felt overwhelmingly free. All energy has to be consumed from within, and the audience suddenly becomes a part of the concert in a more distinct way. I imagine doing both solo gigs and playing my own music with others in the future. I make plans all the time. So far they´re secret but you´ll see.”
Who knows where she’ll go next…?