“Ocean Shell” is taken from Annsofie Salomon’s debut EP, Only Space and Time Can Tell How to Breath in an Ocean Shell, out June 11 on Tambourhinoceros.
“Ocean Shell” tells a specific, deeply personal story for Annsofie Salomon – it is a song that she needed to make rather than one she wanted. As she puts it “‘Ocean Shell’ is about someone who is very close but very far from me. I never wanted to write this song about her, but, after all, it is also about myself: about the duality of bearing witness to someone’s struggles, but not knowing how to make them better.” You feel how raw, intimate, and necessary the song is for the Danish newcomer. Her voice sits upfront in the mix, high and airy, fluttering right up against your headphones like a moth’s wings.
As she describes, “Throughout my life, I’ve found it impossible to grasp how her illness affects her—if it makes her unhappy, or if it simply makes her her. It is something that defines her deeply; gives her a sense of fragility that is present in everything. Her fragility is a beautiful thing to me, but the sadness and the sorrow that is felt in her every song, her every carefully tended rose and her every brushstroke is the hardest thing in the world for me to bear.” For all of us who have loved someone with sadness in their heart, it’s a brutal, beautiful thing to hear.
Annsofie Salomon tells the story through a series of distinct sonic passages – a collage of impressionistic moving parts. There’s splashes of edited vocals, surprising bursts of synth, plucks of organic bass; one moment the whole stereo is filled with massive pumping organ, the next everything is pulled back into bare, beautiful piano. The sections are excitingly distinct, but they’re also remarkably cohesive, bound together by Salomon’s vocals. They feel almost like different tracks on a really well sequenced album, or different pieces in a visual artist’s series.
Together they form a surprising, meandering build that lurches – a few feet forward, another few back – through the track’s runtime, till it all arrives, forcibly, in a final chorus of crushing, noisy climax. It’s a really interesting way to structure a song – the listener never quite sees where they’re headed, yet every new twist feels earned. By the end, the already deeply emotional ballad is morphed into a blistering piece of raw feeling.