Established as a major star across Europe, Agnes Obel has sold over a million copies of her first two albums, ‘Philharmonics’ (2010) and ‘Aventine’ (2013), and her songs have been streamed over 250 million times.
It was during Agnes Obel’s extensive tour with ‘Aventine’, the Danish artist’s bestselling and critically acclaimed album from 2013, when the title and leitmotif for her next work surfaced in her mind: ‘Citizen of Glass’, an album that would conceptually and thematically revolve around the transparency symbolised by the ubiquitous substance.
“Glass is a material which is both strong, fragile and transparent all at once. It’s very relevant for our time and it’s very relevant for me. But generally speaking, it’s a theme relevant for everyone, not just those making music or art. One constantly uses oneself and one’s surroundings as material. One makes oneself transparent” explains Agnes Obel.
Inspired by modern composers, who often have a title or theme that runs like a golden thread through their music, Agnes Obel started to explore ways the concept could be woven into her classical approach to music. With ‘Citizen of Glass’ the songwriter, pianist and producer experimented with her vocals in inventive new ways to manipulate, split and fragment them into alternative versions of her own voice “in order to make my vocals sound like they are being alternately noticed and disregarded”, as she describes it.
As well as a newfound joy of vocal manipulation, a number of different instruments have been incorporated into Agnes Obel’s sound universe, all with great success. For instance, an old instrument, the Trautonium, resembling a synthesiser from the 1920s, can be heard throughout ‘Citizen of Glass’. Other old and new instruments and sounds—glass harps, the mellotron, the vibraphone, the luthéal piano and the cembalo, a harpsichord from the Renaissance—mix blood with Agnes Obel’s simple piano and vocals.
Each of the 10 tracks on ‘Citizen of Glass’ relates in its own way to the theme, expressed differently through melody and lyrics. The opening track ‘Stretch Your Eyes’ along with the first single ‘Familiar’ show Agnes Obel’s darker side, the cello and the Trautonium creating a nesting effect while the vocals are split and manipulated to produce a hypnotic, impacting duet with Obel herself.