Highlights: The Well, No Death, No Hands, Despair
Sung in English by a young Ethiopian lady from Finland, this 2011 album was no straightforward release. The music, though, is fairly simple: Mirel Wagner composes stark folk songs that evoke the spirit of people like Nick Drake and PJ Harvey. Gorgeous acoustic music with a certain dark twist. Gothic folk, but a lot deeper than you could expect.
The thing has an absolutely classic sound: haunting, plaintive melodies beautifully strummed on the acoustic guitar – some of them so good you could think they’ve existed for ages. Take a song as beautiful as “No Death”, for instance, that combines a timeless tune with grim (if not flat-out bizarre) lyrics. Then there is another evocative ballad, “No Death”, which retains that same darkness. This time, though, it comes with a certain childishness – both vocal and lyrical. Truly it’s a thing of contrasts. Mirel’s voice is not a voice of maturity, and has some Mo Tucker-ish aspect to it. The only song that deviates a little from the rest is the sparse, unsettling piece called “Dream” that sounds like an obscure swampy, bluesy number from the first half of the previous century.
Edgy and Nick Cave-like in its atmosphere, this 30-minute album is both touching and disturbing. And it’s usually good art that can give you both of those. Mirel Wagner is the sound of a dusty, long-lost classic.