Erika Angell — The Obsession With Her Voice

The Obsession With Her Voice

The first solo album from the member of The Moth and Thus Owls offers up a kaleidoscope of vocal sounds, finds Vanessa Ague

On The Obsession With Her Voice, Erika Angell creates her own universe out of her ever-changing voice. The Montréal-based artist cloaks her vocals in mystical haze, transforming them into alien reveries; she speaks poetry with scalding clarity; she sings melismatic songs that swirl around lush instrumentals. With this music, she seeks to create not just one world, but a constellation of planets and stars made of glimmering words, electronics and strings. No matter where the music goes, at the heart is Angell’s voice in all its different forms, in the process of being discovered and rediscovered as each phrase passes.

Angell has spent years bouncing around the music world, making experimental electronics in duo The Moth, creating jazz- and indie-inflected music with her Polaris Prize-nominated band Thus Owls and collaborating with artists from groups like SUUNS. The Obsession With Her Voice marks her debut as a soloist and the album brings these years of varied experimentation into one package. In her solo music, you can hear hints of sprawling post-rock, winding free jazz, operatic vocals and rich strings pulled from each facet of her practice. The album is like a patchwork quilt that stems all the way back to early childhood moments in which she discovered her passion for the voice staring out at the verdant nature of her parents’ farm and singing whatever came to mind. 

This freedom can be heard in the album’s fluid motion. Each track embodies a different sonic world of Angell’s imagination, ranging from those mysterious worlds back into mossy, earthy tones. During opener ‘Dress of Stillness’, her voice sounds supernatural, blown out and soaked in reverb, and her instrumentations tremolo and tremble, shaking like tiny earthquakes. With the flip of a switch, the second track ‘Up My Sleeve’, departs from that shaky, atmospheric world into a beat-heavy pulse and eerie spoken word. Later, tracks like ‘Open Eyes’ stretch out, taking up space with stormy instrumentals. Each song feels like its own miniature exploration, and together, they add up to a scrapbook of Angell’s experimentations.

But the album’s best moments are the subtle, fleeting ones. Highlight ‘Let Your Hair Down’ finds Angell in a moodier space; her voice delicately floats above gentle drones, lilting and roaming between tones. Though much of Angell’s music exemplifies her versatility and unpredictability, here she shows her voice’s softness, unveiling another atmosphere to experience. In the album’s liner notes, she describes her music as a reminder that “we can hold all these real faces of ourselves, in front of each other, and show each other that attention.” In her kaleidoscopic music, she dives into her multifaceted world, and invites us to trek into the surprising parts of ourselves, too.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today