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First Play: Agnes Obel, Late Night Tales

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By
Holly Gordon

Agnes Obel’s catalogue is only three albums deep, but the Berlin-based musician's haunting, intimate works have cemented her status as a composer to watch.

Obel's 2010 debut album, Philharmonic, and 2013’s followup, Aventine, were mainly piano-based recordings, and garnered her platinum and gold status in France and Belgium (and quadruple platinum in her home country of Denmark). Her third album, the more experimental, string-encompassing Citizens of Glass, would become her first top 40 album in the U.K. In February 2018, Obel signed to German label Deutsche Grammophon, which will join up with Blue Note in the U.S. for the singer’s next release. She's also popular in TV placements: Obel has landed multiple songs on shows like England’s Lovesick and Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, and her song “Familiar” is the theme for CTV’s new The Killing-esque drama, Cardinal.)

This momentum and creative elasticity make Obel the perfect candidate for the next Late Night Tales, a long-running compilation album series on U.K. label Night Time Stories Ltd. where artists “delve deep into their music collections to create the ultimate ‘late night’ selection.” Past participants include Belle & Sebastian, Air, Nils Frahm and, just last year, Toronto’s BadBadNotGood.

Obel’s Late Night Tales release is made up of 20 tracks, mainly with works that are not hers but with a few choice tracks by Obel herself. Of those, you’ll find an ambient a cappella version of “Stretch Your Eyes,” as well as an exclusive cover of “Glemmer du.. så husker jeg” by Danis screenwriter Arvid Müller. “Bee Dance (Things Falling Apart)” is a song Obel hasn’t yet finished but has included on the list, and compilation closer “Poem About Death” is Inger Christensen’s “Poem on Death” set to original music by Obel (also exclusive to this mix).

“I was surprised at how much time I ended up spending on this,” Obel said via press release. “I collected all the songs together with my partner Alex and we just spent time listening to records, trying to see what would fit together. Some of the music I’ve included here is on mixtapes we made when we were just friends as teenagers. Each one of the tracks produces stories in my head.”

Mixed in with her original music are unexpected pieces like the gripping “Pilentze Pee” sung by the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Choir, and “I go to Sleep” by English singer Ray Davies, a song that echos from one headphone to the other as it fades into the next song in the compilation. The nearly hour-long playlist gives us a sense of Obel's musical universe, and provides a fittingly eerie late-night listen.

“To me, sounds have always been more interesting than words,” Obel said. “I love it when the voice becomes an instrument and you almost forget it’s a human voice.”

Listen to Obel’s Late Night Tales compilation before its release via our player above. Pre-order it here.

Tracklist:

1. Henry Mancini, "The Evil Theme"
2. Roger Webb Sound, "Moon Bird"
3. Eden Ahbez, "Eden's Island"
4. Lee Hazelwood, “The Nights"
5. Nora Dean, "Ay Ay Ay Ay (Angle-Lala)"
6. Yello, "Great Mission"
7. Quarteto Em Cy with Tamba Trio, “Alleluia"
8. Lena Platonos, "Bloody Shadows from Afar"
9. Ray Davies, "I Go To Sleep"
10. Alfred Schnittke, "Piano Quintet V"
11. Agnes Obel, ”Stretch Your Eyes" (Quiet Village accapella)
12. Bulgarian Folklore Choir, "Pilentze Pee"
13. Agnes Obel, "Glemmer du.. Så Husker Jeg"
14. Agnes Obel, "Bee Dance (Things Falling Apart)" (exclusive)
15. Sibylle Baier, "The End"
16. Michelle Gurevich, "Party Girl"
17. Can, ”Obscura Primavera"
18. David Lang, "I Lie"
19. Nina Simone, “Images"
20. Agnes Obel, “Poem On Death" (exclusive spoken word with music)