Angel Olsen (solo)

Angel Olsen (solo)

Julianna Barwick

Thu, September 27, 2018

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

First Unitarian Sanctuary

Philadelphia, PA

$30.00

Sold Out

This event is all ages

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Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen
Anyone reckless enough to have typecast Angel Olsen according to 2013’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness is in for a sizeable surprise with her third album, MY WOMAN. The crunchier, blown-out production of the former is gone, but that fire is now burning wilder. Her disarming, timeless voice is even more front-and-centre than before, and the overall production is lighter. Yet the strange, raw power and slowly unspooling incantations of her previous efforts remain, so anyone who might attempt to pigeonhole Olsen as either an elliptical outsider or a pop personality is going to be wrong whichever way they choose - Olsen continues to reign over the land between the two with a haunting obliqueness and sophisticated grace.

Given its title, and track names like ‘Sister’ and ‘Woman’, it would be easy to read a gender-specific message into MY WOMAN, but Olsen has never played her lyrical content straight. She explains: “I’m definitely using scenes that I’ve replayed in my head, in the same way that I might write a script and manipulate a memory to get it to fit. But I think it’s important that people can interpret things the way that they want to.”

That said, Olsen concedes that if she could locate any theme, whether in the funny, synth-laden ‘Intern’ or the sadder songs which are collected on the record’s latter half, “then it’s maybe the complicated mess of being a woman and wanting to stand up for yourself, while also knowing that there are things you are expected to ignore, almost, for the sake of loving a man. I’m not trying to make a feminist statement with every single record, just because I’m a woman. But I do feel like there are some themes that relate to that, without it being the complete picture.”

Over her two previous albums, she’s given us reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk, grunge-pop band workouts and haunting, finger-picked epics. MY WOMAN is an exhilarating complement to her past work, and one for which Olsen recalibrated her writing/recording approach and methods to enter a new music-making phase. She wrote some songs on the piano she’d bought at the end of the previous album tour, but she later switched it out for synth and/or Mellotron on a few of them, such as the aforementioned ‘Intern’.

MY WOMAN is put together as a proper A-side and a B-side, featuring the punchier, more pop/rock-oriented songs up front, and the longer, more reflective tracks towards the end. The rollicking ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, for example, appears early on - its nervy grunge quality belying a subtle desperation, as befits any song about the exhaustion point of an impassioned argument. Another crowning moment comes in the form of the melancholic and Velvets-esque ‘Heart-shaped Face’, while the compelling ‘Sister’ and ‘Woman’ are the only songs not sung live. They also both run well over the seven-minute mark: the first being a triumph of reverb-splashed, ‘70s country rock, cast along Fleetwood Mac lines with a Neil Young caged-tiger guitar solo to cap it off. The latter is a wonderful essay in vintage electronic pop and languid, psychedelic soul.

Because her new songs demanded a plurality of voices, Olsen sings in a much broader range of styles on the album, and she brought in guest guitarist Seth Kauffman to augment her regular band of bass player Emily Elhaj, drummer Joshua Jaeger and guitarist Stewart Bronaugh. As for a producer, Olsen took to Justin Raisen, who’s known for his work with Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira and Santigold, as well as opting to record live to tape at LA’s historic Vox Studios.

As the record evolves, you get the sense that the “My Woman” of the title is Olsen herself - absolutely in command, but also willing to bend with the influence of collaborators and circumstances. If ever there was any pressure in the recording process, it’s totally undetectable in the result. An intuitively smart, warmly communicative and fearlessly generous record, MY WOMAN speaks to everyone. That it might confound expectation is just another of its strengths.
Julianna Barwick
Julianna Barwick
Julianna Barwick's revelatory third full-length, Will, is a surprising left turn for the Brooklyn experimental artist. Conceived and self-produced over the past year in a variety of locations, the ominous, compelling Will is a departure from 2013's Alex Somers-produced Nepenthe. If that last record conjured images of gentle, thick fog rolling over desolate mountains, then the self-produced Will is a late afternoon thunderstorm, a cathartic collision of sharp and soft textures that sounds looming and restorative all at once.

Will comes off of Barwick's busiest period in her career to date following the release of Nepenthe--a spate of activity that included playing piano for Yoko Ono, performing at Carnegie Hall at the annual Tibet House concert with the Flaming Lips and Philip Glass, the Rosabi EP and beer created in conjunction with brewing company Dogfish Head, and a re-imagining of Bach's "Adagio" from Concerto In D Minor.

Barwick's life over the past several years has largely been lived in transit, and as such the genesis of Will was not beholden to location; Barwick worked on the album in a variety of locales, from a desolate house in upstate New York to the Moog Factory in Asheville, North Carolina, to Lisbon, Portugal, the first European city to embrace Julianna's music in 2007.

"I love touring, but it can be a wild ride," Barwick reflects on this cycle of constant motion. "You're constantly adjusting, assimilating, and finding yourself in life-changing situations." Those experiences played into and helped shape Will's charged, unstable atmosphere: "I knew I'd be playing these songs live, so I wanted some movement," she explains. "Something that had rhythm and low-end."

That sense of forward propulsion is largely owed to Will's synth-heavy textures, an ingredient she was inspired to add to her vocal loop-heavy formula after demoing a new prototype analog sequencer for Moog during last year's FORM Festival in Arcosanti, Arizona.

The electric current that runs through Will takes on various shapes of intoxicating instability: the orbiting chain of tones that wafts through "Nebula", the frizzy sine waves lying under the firmament of "Same", the haunting vocal echoes on opener "St. Apolonia" that were recorded late at night at a Lisbon train underpass, and the martial arpeggios that accompany Will's processional closer "See, Know".

Another new wrinkle that Will introduces in Barwick's sound: Mas Ysa's Thomas Arsenault, who lends his richly complex vocals to "Same" and "Someway" and weaves perfectly into Barwick's distinctive musical fabric. The album also features contributions from Dutch cellist Maarten Vos and percussion from Jamie Ingalls (Chairlift, Tanlines, Beverly).

Will is largely a product of ups and downs, a reflection of a life lived somewhere in between transience and standing still. "While making this record, there were moments of isolation and dark currents," Barwick admits. "I like exploring that, and I love when I come across songs that sound scary or ominous. I've always been curious about what goes into making a song that way." The beguiling, beautifully complicated Will is the result of that curiosity, as well as the latest proof yet of Barwick's irresistibly engaging talent as a composer and vocalist.
Venue Information:
First Unitarian Sanctuary
2125 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19103
http://r5productions.com