Band of the Day

2012.09.06

Mirel Wagner

Sparse, gothic blues-folk from a Finnish-Ethiopian musician
The stars begin to fall. Dance with me till there's nothing left of you at all.
lyrics from Despair

Alluringly grim singer-songwriter Mirel Wagner was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Espoo, Finland. The 24-year-old bluesy chanteuse fostered her musical talents at an early age, writing and performing since 16. Her gloomy repertoire with austere character only draws fans closer; her promising talent quickly picked up attention from journalists worldwide who could only give her praise. Photographer Aki Roukala, an early believer, funded Wagner’s first recordings, which released in Europe through Bone Voyage Recordings in October 2011. Her sound so minimal and delicately detailed, Wagner features pieces from her teen years, including “To The Bone,” the first single off of her self-titled debut. Wagner’s LP released stateside in March 2012 through Friendly Fire Recordings.

There are some artists out there who make songs meant to illicit nothing but happy feelings. Then there's Mirel Wagner. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a haunting voice well beyond her 23 years, Wagner's self-titled debut album (released in early 2012) is a nine-song collection dark, sparse blues-folk. Born in Ethiopia, but raised in Espoo, Finland, Wagner first started playing music at the age of 7, when she was given violin lessons. She switched to the guitar at 13, and started writing songs at 16. After an open mic session in Helsinki, a Finnish journalist named Jean Ramsay wrote a glowing review of her in an article, which led to Wagner's first recording session in a proper studio. She recorded 12 songs in just two days, with all but three making it onto her debut album. “No Death” is one of the songs that made the cut, a chilling number with lyrics that speak of loving someone, quite literally, even beyond death (“she answered to my kiss with a rotten tongue/no death can tear us apart,” sings Wagner). She goes on to personify death, singing “death comes to feast/like a greedy hungry beast/he wants it all” in her intimate croon. Accompanying the song is a video that's just as, if not more, chilling as the lyrics. It features Mirel Wagner obscured by shadows so dark that the whites of her eyes can't even be seen. Her expression is completely detached, as if her body is just a physical conduit for a ghostly voice from beyond the grave. Musically, “No Death” is as bare bones as a song can be, a sparsely-plucked acoustic guitar providing the only instrumentation to accompany Wagner's intimate whisper. This minimalist instrumental aesthetic is something that Wagner maintains throughout the album, resulting in her lyrics being brought to the forefront. And by putting her lyrics to the forefront, Mirel Wagner seems to bring back the old blues tradition of the singer really being a compelling storyteller, above all else.