In the late 80′s, somewhere on the east side of the Berlin Wall, a young girl was developing a love for the world of performing arts, particularly ballet and opera.
When the wall eventually fell, that same girl was drawn to the Western pop music that, before then, was mostly out of earshot for East Germans.
I Am Harlequin, the brainchild of now London based songstress Anna Freier, will appeal to fans of all things sophisticated and left-of-centre but also, importantly, to anyone with a soft spot for big songs backed by an even bigger voice.
Her so-called ‘retroelectro pop’ has already garnered kudos from BBC Radio’s Steve Lamacq, and appeared on the British TV series Skins. She has performed on Radio 4′s Loose Ends, and I Am Harlequin was named number 17 in the 2011 Last.fm New Discovery charts. If you’re yet to hear Anne Freier, the release of I Am Harlequin’s ‘Craze‘ EP on July 2nd will make for a good introduction.
Her stirring blend of pop and classical influences can be traced back to Freier’s childhood. She was fixated by ballet and opera from an early age. That fixation is now the grandiosity you hear in songs like ‘Wild One‘ and ‘Because He Loves Them Both‘. Her tendency towards generous, sweeping instrumentation, shifting rhythms and classic chord progressions makes for a big, bold but also quite graceful sound. Her desire to build her songs, vocally and musically – best heard at the end of ‘Wild One’ which concludes ‘Craze’ – is perhaps her greatest asset.
When the Berlin Wall fell, Freier was exposed to the modern, Western pop music that had previously been hard to come by. The late 80′s electro pop of ‘Something Else‘ is surely a product of that, and shows that in I Am Harlequin, Freier is not afraid to show her fun side too. It grooves along with a dirty bassline and is a perfect dancefloor filler. Also be sure to check out Freier’s choral and symphonic remix of Queen‘s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now‘, which is equal parts brilliant and absurd.
Impressively, mostly because of how polished everything sounds, Freier writes and produces I Am Harlequin’s material herself. Because her quirkiness is offset by melodic songwriting, she never strays too far from immediate accessibility. ‘Wild One’ is particularly enthralling and is the sort of song that could see Freier propelled to a level of success beyond popularity within indie circles.
While there are echoes of Kate Bush in Freier’s theatrical vocal flourishes and at times bizarre phrasing, the most noticeable and well founded comparison, is with Florence and the Machine as Freier’s big voice and bigger production brings Florence immediately to mind. Judging by Florence’s success, there is clearly a place for another glamourous indie girl with a huge voice, and if Anne Freier continues to write and sing so beautifully, that place could well belong to I Am Harlequin.
‘Craze’ will be available from ‘all good digital stores’ and as a limited edition, hand-packaged CD version from I Am Harlequin’s official website on July 2nd.