Agnes Obel sequesters herself for second CD 

click to enlarge Agnes Obel
  • courtesy photo
  • Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel wrote her latest CD “Aventine” in a secluded Berlin studio.
As in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (“Pastoral”), the delicate piano-and-string studies on Agnes Obel’s second album, “Aventine,” drizzle like a summer shower, and feel as if they were conceived in a verdant, Beatrix Potter countryside.

If only that were the case, says the Copenhagen-bred vocalist, who appears in San Francisco tonight. Oddly enough, the album — with tunes such as “Dorian,” “Pass Them By” and “Fuel to Fire” — was written and recorded in a windowless, wood-paneled drum room in a studio in Berlin, where she relocated six years ago. The cramped quarters were Bauhaus basic.

Why did Obel sequester herself in such a tiny space? It all started with her 2010 debut “Philharmonics,” which sold more than half a million copies worldwide and won five Danish Music Awards in 2011, including Best Album of the Year.

Having a hit record required touring and when she finally got off the road, “Aventine” had been gestating for too long.

“So this was an album that I really needed to make, because I felt like it would disappear, that all these ideas would just evaporate if I didn’t sit down [and] record them,” she says. “I was really looking forward to working on this record.”

Obel’s career — and personal life, as well — had gotten so chaotic, she craved simplicity and feared complexity. Thanks to her success, she had carte blanche for her sophomore work, and she initially planned to demo a few tracks in the secluded location, then continue to a proper studio.

“But I found out that it was a wonderful room to enter — this little wooden box,” she says. “It was like I was suspending all the outside world and my own existence in this little bubble, my own tiny island. And it turned out that I needed something that simple to make the album.”

Two other producers occupied larger rooms on the property. Obel began working the same 9-to-5 hours, plus weekends, that they did (when no one was around), so she could borrow any studio instrument she required.

If she needed an extra musician, she would simply phone a friend. Left to her own devices, she penned lyrics so brutally frank they stunned her.

“I wasn’t thinking about that during the actual process, but when I had to deliver ‘Aventine,’ I was thinking ‘What have I actually done here?’” she says.

Ironically, the aspect of Berlin that Obel most treasures is its spaciousness. But she’s restless, thinking of transplanting again for her third disc.

“But I just don’t know which city,” she says. “Then again, who knows? I actually may end up going to the countryside somewhere!”


Agnes Obel

Where: Independent, 629 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $20 (sold out)

Contact: (415) 771-1421,

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Tom Lanham

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