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SXSW Band of the Day: Agnes Obel

Peter Blackstock

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 4, 2014

Artist: Agnes Obel

From: Copenhagen, Denmark

Online:Artist website; official SXSW page

SXSW showcase: 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at Central Presbyterian Church (200 E. Eighth St.)

About the artist

Though she fits under the umbrella description of singer-songwriter, Danish pianist Agnes Obel is far out on the edge of that genre, sculpting ethereal soundscapes that at times float near the classical realm.

Overseas, Obel already has risen to the top of her field. “Philharmonics,” Obel’s 2010 debut album, sold close to a million copies worldwide, and she swept most of the major categories at the 2011 Danish Music Awards. In the U.S., she remains relatively under-the-radar; tour stops generally involve clubs under 500 capacity and sometimes church halls, which frequently are a good fit for Obel’s airy acoustic performances. (She’ll play churches in both Austin and Seattle on her current tour.)

On the new “Aventine,” released last fall, Obel continues to push toward stark minimalist beauty. Her adventurous, minor-key melodies build a tension that toughens up what at first seem delicate compositions. The instrumentation remains sparse; she’s reportedly touring with cello and viola – an ideal support structure for her songs, judging from this video shot live in Berlin:

Could share a bill with: Jane Siberry, Beth Orton, Swell Season, Lisa Hannigan