‘Emotionally stirring, heartwrenchingly honest, and utterly captivating, it’s a track of sheer sonic beauty.’
Intro to Gurli Octavia
Having already released a flood of singles and EPs since her debut Philophobia, Gurli Octavia delivers to us the most moving, intimate, and emotionally centred album that you may have ever experienced. Written over the course of two years, ‘I Could Be Blossoming Instead’ is a 15 track release that harnesses the whole host of emotions that the Danish artist felt during that time. Emotions related to ‘the death of her father, a messy break up with her long-term boyfriend, and a tendency to self-sabotage.’ But rather than this be solely the subject of the debut album, Gurli tells the stories behind these moments and others, while looking ahead to a future that is more personally, and more musically liberating than anything that came before. With pre-release singles ‘X-Ray’ and ‘I Wasn’t Ready’ proving now to have only been a hint of the musical gorgeousness held within the album, I now invite you to experience the honest, and at times utterly heartwrenching musicality of Gurli Octavia. Read more at: Behind the Music: Interview with Gurli Octavia
Featured Track Review
Carrying an effortless sense of haunting, the opening moments of ‘Tomorrow I’m A Man’ – which sits at the mid point on the album – is immediately as connective as every moment experienced either side of it. The acoustic centre generates instrumental intimacy. And the distant, slowly shifting sustained lines captivate. It’s the sort of sound that makes you ponder life events, and their impact on yourself as well as others. Then Gurli’s vocals enter to completely enhance these sensations.
Touching you instantly, the initial phrase of ‘This day, reluctant to pass’ draws us into a truly personal moment. Half whispered, as slow as you like, yet with an undercurrent of intent, it finds a balance that is incredibly hard to find. Just how do you provide purpose, where there is essentially none? How do you ensure that in telling such an honest and private story, that you don’t exclude the listener? Of course, the answer to both lies in the sheer level of sonic beauty that Gurli is delivering.
Causing us to hang on to every single nuance, while at the same time making us feel like we are listening in on something we shouldn’t be, the most gorgeous inflections begin to appear. Hesitation leads to the formation of words. Gentle vibrato brings forth internal emotions in a controlled way. Pitches shift delicately, almost freely, while remaining within a range that suits the lyricism. Lyricism that, with lines such as “I’m nothing but skin, wrapped around anxiety”, makes you well up and take deep cathartic breaths. It really is a listening experience that has to be experienced.
With such a level of connection being found through the vocals, what you could easily miss are the developments occurring underneath. Where acoustic finger-picked motifs provided accompaniment, they have evolved into strums which instrumentally signal our arrival at the chorus. Delicate as you like arpeggiated piano chords join here too. It is, for almost the first time in the track, a moment where musical freeness blurs with true metre. The effect of which sees us being taken into a second verse that is the most wonderful embellishment of the first.
Turning to be fully instrumental, the hinted formality transforms into a sound that is hypnotic and transcendent. Now fusing multiple guitar lines – in bass, electric, and acoustic forms – the blend of musicality is utterly inspiring. Each part has a real place in the sound, rather than just being there for interest, and keeping the air of sparseness, there is real sense of Gurli understanding what is needed and what isn’t. There is even more to it than this though. So much more, as with portamento bass lines hinting at jazzier influences within album opener ‘Chain’, and the percussive rhythms feeling as authentically folky as the vocal harmonies in ‘Keep Your Ambitions In Stock’, it’s wholly evident how much Gurli understands connections between her own tracks too.
Pushing the sense of development into all areas, the hinted hesitations of previous vocals seamlessly become filled with hints of confidence. Together with the aforementioned instrumental elements, it’s a wondrous sound that moves toward dramatic, but never fully away from understated. Though as ever, that tricky musical balance is found in the most stunning way. Set in alto range, ‘I would like to just crawl into the wall and disappear till I’m okay’ connects in a way that reflects an edge of reclusiveness, while the use of head voice on ‘They say spring is on its way’, suggests vulnerability around moving forward. You, as a listener, feel helpless, yet want to help in every way possible.
Inducing an even greater sense of reflection, following an impassioned chorus where restrained, yet highly noticeable crescendos occur, we find ourselves floating in a sea of poignancy. Setting up the atmosphere, earlier arpeggiated piano themes take on the form of triplets to generate a minimalistic edge. Then with Gurli’s lyricism shifting from first to third person, ‘no one asked the Man to walk in fear, told the Man what not to wear, and poor Man never asked for what was done to him’ we are let into the true meaning behind everything to this point. And with this realisation occurring, it’s little wonder that what takes us to the close of the track is so emotionally stirring.
Increasingly casting the sense of insecurity aside, a sound that puts drama at the forefront begins to make itself known. Domination starts to occur in all instrumental areas. Heavy strums surge, drums and cymbals crash cross-rhythmically, and the intent is greater than anywhere else. Yet within this, Gurli’s vocals – which those portamento inflections have now found a place in too – remain as touching and as controlled as ever. And for that reason, when they disappear in the final moments, and an emotional charged ending arrives, we still feel truly connected to them.
‘Tomorrow I’m A Man’ features on Gurli Octavia’s debut album ‘I Could Be Blossoming Instead’ which is out now.
Find out more about Gurli Octavia at:
Behind the Music: Interview with Gurli Octavia