It’s not often I get to use words like ‘lovely’ and ‘delightful’ when writing a review. This is likely due to the subject of most of my reviews involving large angry hairy heavy metal men with beards you could hide a badger in. Fair to say that Linnea Olsson, being a demure Swedish cellist, most certainly does not fit that description and is far more deserving of the opening adjectives.
I’d had the great pleasure to interview Linnea earlier in the evening (keep an eye on the site for that) and was sure to stick around for her performance in the bar area of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. It may have been one of her more unusual gigs as the audience was, with the exception of a few who’d specifically come along to see her, made up of young girls no older than eighteen queueing to see Lewis Watson who was playing the same night in the primary venue upstairs.
I always enjoy exploring new musical avenues and so I was excited to see what the show would entail. Unlike most solo acts who have a few assistants on stage, Linnea has simply her cello and loop and effects pedals. All of her music is performed live via looped samples recorded seconds before. Her overall sound could be described as light, digestible pop, but that would disrespect the skill and complexity of the layers that go into each song. Can you imagine managing percussion, loops, bow work, plucking, effects and singing all at once? Well Miss Olsson does it with apparent ease.
The set list picks out some of the best songs from debut album Ah! which was released at the end of last year. Opening with the catchy first single “Giddy Up!”, it’s then followed by my personal favourite song which shares the albums’ name. I’m then treated to a surprise in the form of a unique rendition of Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy”. Sadly though, the beauty of the cover was lost on the captive audience mainly because the song is older than the average age.
It was interesting to watch the line as much as the performance. I was pleased to see that many of the girls began to shuffle for a better view and were obviously enjoying the unexpected bonus of what must have felt to them like an extra support act. Unfortunately as the line grew so did the ambient noise, but it didn’t stop Linnea from clearly enjoying herself, smiling and chatting a little between songs, announcing each one with a short background of what they were about.
Of course, the second cover song of the evening was again lost on the majority of the room, this time Kraftwerk’s “Sex Objekt”, which features on the album. But the best of the audience reactions was during the introduction of new song “I Am Younger”. Eschewing the cello and standing up to the mic, half way through her introduction her voice suddenly changes to a deep-toned robotic voice. This stops the ambient noise dead as the attention of every eye and ear in the room suddenly became trained on her.
Beginning to sing with the robotic distortion, it then loops to become the songs baseline. The layers of vocal increase as the song progresses and finally ends with four different looping layers and her live voice. It’s a curious song to behold but it is absolutely superb and shows a true mastery of the difficult art of the loop pedal as well as the versatility of her voice as the only layer with effects was the robo-vocal. The sound is incredible when you consider it’s entirely down to one person and mixed live on the spot.
I have to say I was very impressed with the evening. Although a short set, the different from the norm primary instrument coupled with the audio trickery was something I’d never seen before as an entire set. I confess I’d never heard Linnea Olsson until a few weeks ago, but I’ve since enjoyed several spins of the album and couldn’t be happier with the live performance. I’d happily encourage all our readers who are used to me writing about rock and metal all the time to look her up. You never know, you might just enjoy her as much as I did.
Finally, a big thank you to Kato Plato for the inset photograph. Please take a few minutes to check out his 365 photography project.