Oh Land Goes Geek for the Girls

Oh Land in New York City, February 2011. Photo by Zev Schmitz for MTV.

Let’s get this out of the way: Oh Land’s Nanna Oland Fabricius is fantastic to look at, should you favor the tall, European model types. This fact will most likely follow her around much of 2011, as American audiences become familiar with her eponymous debut — an 11-song hybrid of Goldfrapp-ian electro-pop, full of hooks and optimistic vocal phrasing. But there’s a secret about Oh Land that goes way beyond the exterior: deep down, she’s a bit of a geek. “I’ve recorded stuff on an iPhone –those little electronic applications you can get,” she tells Hive.

Born and raised in Copenhagen, Oh Land caught the eyes and ears of A&R folks in the fall of 2009, when she booked her own CMJ gigs from Denmark. At the time, she was just an oddball Danish singer who marveled audiences with a visually arresting live show. Soon after signing to Epic, she relocated to Brooklyn, where she began working full-time on her tunes, with producers Dan Carey (Franz Ferdinand, Hot Chip) and Dave McCracken (Depeche Mode) to help with writing.

In the last year, there’s been a rash of quality female driven electro-pop. Robyn, Glasser and to a degree, Florence and the Machine have all made inroads in what’s typically been a largely male-dominated sphere in terms of how music creation occurs. The formula typically rests on a guy programmer working to create the aesthetic behind a voice. But that’s shifted, Oh Land argues. “It’s not just: girls are singers and they’re really dependent on big producers,” she explains. “Girls can decide what their vision is and then go do it themselves. That’s how I like to do it. I can never be just a singer.”

In other words, it’s not just the boys that are holing up in their rooms, tweaking and fiddling and mixing. The girls are autonomously creating because they can, and in this instance, Oh Land’s “training” stems from her willingness to play in solitude, as well as her attraction towards a geeky IDM-leaning electronic act such as Autechre, as much as she’s indebted to Bjork and Portishead.

The resulting effort is what Oh Land calls “cine-pop,” or cinematic pop music, where classical elements such as string arrangements are melded into electronic worlds – sometimes cold and sterile sounding like  “Human” and sometimes euphoric and very emotive, such as the floating pop of “Sun of a Gun.”  Songs were fleshed out between Fabricius, Carey and McCracken, be it by sitting in a room together and experimenting with toys they had at their disposal, or working off tracks Fabricius recorded at home herself.

“Sequences and music interfaces have become affordable and you can start making electronic sounds at home,” she says. “That’s made it much more accessible and a possibility for girls.” Maybe she’s not a geek, after all.  Just resourceful.

Oh Land is out now on Epic Records.

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