Before Angel Olsen became a 2010s indie rock icon with the albums 'MY WOMAN' and 'All Mirrors', she played and performed with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and made slow-burning folk music. 'Burn Your Fire for No Witness' blends melancholic indie folk with hints of psych folk, incorporating a whole host of influences from Leonard Cohen to Vashti Bunyan.
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The initial impression left by the first few tracks of this much anticipated album is the amount of time producer John Congleton spends sloshing digital distortion over everything. The oldest trick in the book to make an artist sound ‘edgy’ is used several times in the first trio of songs and you are left wondering why they didn’t just record it on direct to 78rpm recording equipment and be done with it.
Opener ‘UnfuckTheWorld’ is a nicely timed fuck you anti-love anthem that half recalls the nascent Liz Phair. ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ is a lo-fi sludge of Breeders-like garage rock. It sounds very, very different from Olsen’s previous Devon Sproule -a- like long player ‘Halfway House’ and someone has obviously upset her in the meantime in order to make her so damn angry. Olsen is more effective on the type of slow burning rumbling dirge such as ‘White Fire’ which is comparable to no-one bar Johnny Cash. This juxtaposition of styles is the crux to getting a hold on the album, she is obviously coming from a background of the lo-fi Marissa Nadler, Josephine Foster like female troubadour but via a love of mournful 50’s and 60’s crooner pop she is unleashing her inner PJ Harvey with some grungy angry workouts.
Its good to hear an artist veer around the dial like this, her excellent Diane Cluck-like swooping voice is well equipped to deal with the full band arrangements. However, after several tracks the distorted production style wears on the ears and you wish for some clarity. A track like ‘Iota’ is clear as a bell and better for it, just acoustic guitar, brushed drums and a lovely lilting vocal.
8/10 Rob Gannon 2nd March 2014
"With one listen to Burn Your Fire For No Witness’s stomping fuzz-popper “Forgiven/Forgotten”, you’d assume Olsen was done with her old acoustic ways. You’d be wrong though. Olsen’s gone eclectic is all."
Read the full review here: http://www.sicmagazine.net/7221/angel-olsen-burn-your-fire-for-no-witness-draft/
9/10 constantino_chr 17th February 2014Missouri songstress Angel Olsen's assent to prominence wasn't instant; much like her songwriting, her fanbase has grown and developed over time. I was hooked ever since I first heard her Strange Cacti EP and with such high expectations, I can wholeheartedly say that she hasn't disappointed in the slightest. The album opens with 'Unfucktheworld' a timid two-minute track which, much like her previous material, references the sensation of loneliness (the repetition of the lyric "I am the only one now" being most prominent). 'Unfucktheworld' acts as the calm before the storm that is the mighty single 'Forgiven/Forgotten' which sent the music community into a frenzy last year and rightly so. Here we see a new, more assertive Angel as she chants "I made up my mind, I made up my mind/I wasted my time, making up my mind". The alt-country stomper 'Hi-five', like it's predecessor is backed by a full band which help maximize the impact of the comic line "Hi-Hive! So am I!". 'High & Wild' which like the name suggests is erratic and totally random, in the best possible way. Angel broadens her horizons further with the introduction of piano to her ever-expanding repertoire. The piano rattles alongside the drums and gritty guitars as she sings "I'm neither innocent nor wise when you look me in the eyes". The next stand-out comes in the form of 'Stars'; the hearty guitars and pounding guitars alongside Angel's gorgeous coo which soars as she cries "I'll close my eyes, I'll close my eyes so tightly for the world". 'Dance Slow Decades' is a stunning ballad which builds into a majestic climax and shows Angel's maturity and development as a person as well as an artist as finds a more positive outlook on life. The closer 'Windows' has an underlying resilience which juxtaposes the the fragility of her voice as she asks "What's so wrong with the light?". Here she is finally able to find a glimmer of hope in all the gloom. About time.
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