Denmark’s Hannah Schneider (half of critically acclaimed duo AyOwA), has established herself as a unique musician on the Danish scene. Her new album, Ocean Letters, released in September, sees classic piano composition and evocative electronic elements form a seamless partnership and deliver ten tracks that create an intimate connection between the neoclassical and the modern and emphasize the cinematic dimensions of her music.
The album is Inspired by the book Havbrevene (The Sea Letters) by Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen – an exchange of letters between the sister oceans the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean who write together about life in the sea and on earth – the songs on Ocean Letters began to take shape at during the pandemic. Throughout the album, the piano melodies remain central while the flickering electronic elements provide substance and ballast to the sounds and images formed in the listener.
Interestingly, Hannah normally writes and performs in Danish (with AyOwA) and felt a pull towards writing in her second language, English. She says “You write in a different way in your mother tongue. And even though my father was American… had to go around my mother tongue to find my own way in the English lyrics “
The lead single, ‘We Will Be the Only Sound in the World‘, is my favourite. Together with ‘The World’s Gone Still Now‘, the track tells of a world in silence. The piano is sombre and accompanied by Hannah’s hauntingly pure vocals, clear as crystal yet breathy and ethereal.
As befits an album inspired by nature and the oceans, the sounds are fluid throughout, never more so than on ‘Mirror Sphere’, which takes the perspective of an amoeba:
“I wrote those songs in the middle of the heaviest time of the pandemic. All background noise was gone. It felt like it was a crucial moment in history – almost as if it was the end of it all. I came to think of the earth’s long history, and that it all happens over millions of years – all the way back from the time the amoebas decided to go up on land and became animals and humans. We are just part of the long haul, and in a way that’s a consolation! “
‘The Season‘ shows the versatility in Hannah’s voice – the vocals become more earthy with overtones of jazz sounds, a paean to the melancholy sleepless state of bright evenings, carried by acoustic piano and with Jacob Bellens, Goss and Josephine Philip singing background vocals
Hannah’s advice for aspiring artists is all about the music:
“! know it’s been said a million times before, but it is the truest I can say from my own experience. Never compromise when it comes to the core of your music and what rings true to yourself. Many people will tell you to take a shortcut, but in the end, all you’ve got is yourself and your integrity, and that is what will take you somewhere in the end!”
Ocean Letters was released on 30 September on Midnight Confessions Records. Get your copy here.
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