Late Night Tales
Out 25 May 2018
Late Night Tales is a series of artist curated compilation albums that attempt to achieve the ultimate late night mix. Involving an eclectic mixture of musical genres, soundscapes and spoken word, Danish musician Agnes Obel’s contribution evokes the mysterious threshold between waking and sleeping before articulating the deliciousness of deep sleep with exquisitely accurate representation. As thought provoking and memorable as Dali’s dream sequence for Hitchcock or David Lynch’s constant pursuit of invoking liminal states of consciousness, Agnes Obel has distilled the sublime.
We creep about the house with Mancini, trying to tip toe, our every footfall betraying us with echoes. There is nothing in this part of the house – just an old net curtain blowing in the balmy breeze of an open window. It’s getting late. It’s time to close the windows. It’s time to lock the doors. Yet there is something bucolic in this landscape. You stand closer to the still open window, the curtain fluttering against your skin, a strange delight in your trepidation as you look across the shadowy pastoral scene, the end of the garden, the fields, the plains, the trees that stand like strangers and the wilderness beyond. “Blow wind blow, I must go…” exhorts Eden Ahbez, calling you to leave these waking shores.
Strangers rock up with tales of the road. Sitting in the kitchen with weary boots, you gather stories of the outside world and you forget about these long, lonely days and you “learn to live for the nights”. In the morning you try and unpick these stories from the visions in your dreams. “The nights. The nights. The nights…”
As one hour turns slowly to the next, you walk slow and deep from room to room. As the wine begins to infuse your aching limbs, you hear the calls of sleepless birds from the rafters, taunting you, invoking your lives of the past – lives and loves, people and places almost not yet missed opportunities, chance meetings and the ones that got away: “where have you been all my life, boy?” Your thoughts decay from words to mingle with the bird calls, rubbed together with the rhythms of this long, long night. “There is no hope left…”
But there is salvation, Aleluia. There is something to hold on to amidst all this woozy flux. Lena Platonos whispers in Greek, her confidential tones drawing you closer, closer, beckoning you to leave the waking day behind, to let go. You are closer, closer to the bullseye, closer to the letting go, closer to oblivion. Ray Davies is swinging you gently, side to side, waltzing you through the countdown. I go to sleep (sleep) and imagine that you’re there with me. Your shape, the heat from your body, the depth of your breathing, the steady rise and fall of your rib cage… none of those things are here anymore. Now the music must be all those things. The music is all I have in this final wink of waking life. Piano Quintet V is playing somewhere in the house… far away… the violin bow stretching every second across the strings… the music box refrain… a child’s clumsy learning fingers… piano, piano… hush…
Brushes replace beats in the anaesthetised textures of the unconscious. Hi-hats, cymbals shimmer like a retreating sea washing over your fervid mind, cleaning the convolutions of your brain like saltwater rushing into the channels in the sand, taking all the detritus with it, the sediment building yet again with the incoming day. Here, on this remote, revolving island – a floating island, floating world upon an invisible sea – it is Agnes Obel now who strikes the keys, chiming like tropical skeletal bones, amidst this exoticism there is mortality, dark and diseased, stillness and the danger of decay in these horse latitudes. We are building to fever pitch. The wooden beams of the ship are creaking. Dark thunder clouds opaque the moon. Sibylle Baier is frank and resigned. There is no mistake. “It’s the end, friend of mine. It’s the end, sweet friend of mine.”
Out on a limb, the wind is now cold and it blows clean through your soul, through what’s left of your soul. Out here, CAN articulate a soundscape in the form of a minor, personally localised weather system. Oscura Primavera rises and falls, assaying your peaks and troughs, your jagged ridges and dry, cracked valley floors. Then off, to dissipate across oceans of sleep. We have left beats and rhythms and structure behind. Nina Simone’s voice floats above, below, amongst the void. “There are no palm trees in the street. And dishwater gives back no images. She does not know her beauty. She thinks her brown body has no glories.” Her body is far away. Her is far away. There is no her in sleep.
Agnes Obel whispers in your ear. By your bedside. In a different place. Last night I dreamt I was dead. There is only the faint rush of the void…
Listen to a sample from the album below.