Angel Olsen - Manchester Soup Kitchen

Burn Your Fire For No Witness: a peculiar sentiment to tour, being that Angel Olsen burned with quiet intensity for a (literal) room full of witnesses at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen.

Much has been made of that second album, her first recorded with her full band; the maudlin whimsy of lyrics like “Are you lonely too? Hi-five! So am I!”, the loping see-saw of the vocals, the southern sweetheart-break of the songs. And not without cause – it’s a very beautiful record. With a defined elegance that is hardly lacking in her debut (though is certainly more focussed, more whittled down), the humour feels more organic, the narrative more comfortably confessional.

Her voice is a little grittier live than on record, though not proper grit, more like the gracefully coloured sands you get making pictures of palm trees in glass bottles on holiday. There is something of a more obvious remove between the Quiet Ones and the Loud Ones, and when performing ‘White Fire’, the exquisitely restrained song from which the album’s title is derived, Olsen abandons her backing band, performing solo. It’s a magical moment.

Her quiet numbers deftly avoid the dopey folk they could so easily veer towards; the still swampy guitars and absent, off-key protractions have a bit of Sibylle Baier’s spectral meanderings. When faster/louder, it all gets a bit throaty, whooping and rattling, with the controlled vocal gallivanting of Bobbie Gentry or Linda Ronstadt.

The parable-like storytelling certainly lends itself to performance, pleasingly at conflict with Olsen’s between song, um, banter? – which is minimalist/nigh on non-existent. She closes with ‘Dance Slow Decades’, delivered dry and lazy, as perfectly formed as her distractingly immaculate eyebrows. “Dance because you know the song,” Olsen implores, “even when you’re the only one”. The poetics of being alone, the hubris of integrity; of course we know the bloody songs, it’s near impossible to stop listening to them.

Category Gig Review

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