Amsterdam based Josephine Odhil is a creator in the truest sense of the word. Working with the mediums of music and visual art, she takes inspiration from wherever it is to be found, embarking on literature and film research, and keenly observing the natural world. A conceptual thinker, she concerns herself with stories and how to tell them – a style of working that features prominently in her lyrics. These reflect feelings and ideas stemming from her inner world, wrapped in symbolism for the listener to unfold. Many of her lyrics contain secret references to her sources of inspiration, waiting to be found by likeminded souls – creating somewhat of a secret undercurrent in the form of an intimate meta-conversation with her listeners. Having performed on notable (inter)national stages such as Lowlands, Transmusicales and Into The Great Wide Open with her former band The Mysterons, Josephine embarks on a new, exciting chapter with Josephine Odhil. Her debut album Volatile was released on January 13 2023, on boutique Amsterdam label Unexpected Records. This was celebrated with a sold out audiovisual show in the small hall of Paradiso Amsterdam. Shows at Motel Mozaïque and Oerol followed. She also played supportshows for Altın Gün, Vinyl Williams and Donna Blue.
Magic realism is a term that comes to mind when describing her work, countered with hints of surrealism, esotericism and futurism – perhaps most aptly labeled as ‘Surrealist Dream Pop’. Inspired by the likes of Broadcast, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Vanishing Twin – but also lyrical storytellers like Kate Bush and conceptual works such as Plantasia – ‘psychedelic pop’ is an initially luring term that nevertheless fails to evoke the intellectual and artistic depths of Josephine’s creative world. This world is visually depicted in the artwork accompanying the music, also from her hand. Furthermore, the extroverted association one might have with ‘pop’ stands in contrast with the enticing invitation Volatile extends to dive inwards. Accordingly, it leaves just the right amount of room for the listener’s own interpretation and imagination. Romantic lyrics defy overt nostalgia due to the clever combination with progressive and accessible, yet complex compositions and productional layering.
Volatile – the title of the album – refers to a state that Josephine’s inner world often finds itself in, something that can also be said of the outside world during the period in which the album was conceived and created: the pandemic. Solace was to be found in literature (she mentions Haruki Murakami, T.S. Elliot and Doctor Faustus), cinema (David Lynch’s work) and art (Salvador Dali, René Magritte). Venturing into these dimensions allowed Josephine to enter a calmer state of mind – a state of mind that could identify and translate symbols, only to alchemize them further within her own musical creations. Making peace with the darker sides of one’s psyche is a big theme within this album. This ‘integrating the shadow’ is an approach often found in occult traditions, in which the art of Marjorie Cameron stands – another source of inspiration. Josephine explains: ‘Cameron’s work struck me due to the fact that she was in touch with the dark side of her feminine, something she unapologetically communed and worked with.’ In the song ‘Marjorie’, we find a reference: ‘Marjorie, can you paint what the night sees? Dark and light, death and life, and cyclical processes are found not only in us, but also in the natural world of which we are a part – another major source of inspiration for Josephine. Her mission then, is to synthesize these influences and observations with her own process of personal growth – and to make offerings that merge the inner and outer world.
In terms of the recording process, Josephine emphasizes the creative playground that was the studio sessions that took place in Studio Karakterbak in Amsterdam, owned by band member and producer Maurits Nijhuis. She describes the process as ‘perhaps the most enjoyable experience in my musical career thus far’. After Josephine laid the ground work in terms of arrangements and sketches of the desired sound, a collaborative effort with band members Joost van Eck and Maurits Nijhuis took place in which they worked on layering the production. After many hours of experimentation, this led to a somewhat cinematic sonic pallet – a spatial world in which one can float on the river of one’s thoughts and visions, only to be tempted back into action – as beautifully described in the track ‘Sigh’: ‘Hone the art, undergo, let down your guard, overthrow.’
Words by Marieke McKenna
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