Anja Garbarek: Angel-A

Imran Khan

Anja Garbarek


Subtitle: Original Soundtrack
Label: EMI
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2006-04-24

Angel-A is the soundtrack to a Luc Besson film that has yet to make it over to this side of the Atlantic. The film centres on a young man whose attempt at suicide is disrupted by a mysterious young woman he meets on a Paris bridge. Upon writing the film, Besson tapped Norwegian singer Anja Garbarek to undertake duties as the film’s musical composer, citing her albums as an inspiration behind the story. What Angel-A offers, then, is a set of darkly elegant jazz-noir mood pieces that serve to evoke the smoky cityscapes of a cool, black-and-white French New Wave Paris. The soundtrack is mainly comprised of two of Garbarek’s previous releases, 1996’s Balloon Mood and 2001’s Smiling and Waving, as well as a few brief instrumentals and two new pieces. The two new pieces are the sumptuous highlights here: the supreme lushness of “No Trace of Grey” features the quiet surge of a string-section wrapped snugly around a jazz-rippled groove, while the soul-sinking bass plunges that inform “It’s Just a Game” are interrupted by spacey cabaret-like interludes, in which Garbarek murmurs the chorus almost tauntingly. The older material on the soundtrack feature some ingenious sonic touches as well, from the clattering of knick-knacks that make up the rhythm of “The Cabinet” to the deep, spacious hollows of “Balloon Mood”, which echo back a ghostly vocal amid the swell of eerie atmospherics.

The gorgeous, spooky, and lingering ambience of Garbarek’s music is somewhat derailed by the bluesy contributions of Eat and Hiro My Hero, the other artists that feature on the disc toward the end. But since the soundtrack features heavily Garbarek’s work, the closing numbers by the other artists can be easily overlooked, without spoiling the sultry mood that precedes them. Keeping in mind that this is a soundtrack, these songs mirror perfectly the emotions of the film, the ghosts of the story’s characters haunting the lyrical refrains. However, to those unfamiliar with the film, the soundtrack stands alone as a solid, well-rounded effort and also a wonderful introduction to those not yet acquainted with Anja Garbarek’s music.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.