Mirel Wagner, Mirel Wagner

Mikael Wood

By Mikael Wood

on 03.26.12 in Reviews
Spooky folk as lean and sharp as a razor’s edge

“All day I stay by her side,” Mirel Wagner sings of her beloved in “No Death,” the undeniable buzz cut from this Ethiopian-Finnish singer-songwriter’s self-titled debut. “But death has a claim and a right to my bride.” In fact, death has already exercised that claim: A stark minor-key blues made only of voice and guitar, “No Death” turns out to be one of an exceedingly small handful of tunes about the joys of necrophilia. “Her body is cold/ Well, it’s gonna get colder,” Wagner acknowledges over carefully fingerpicked arpeggios, “But my love will ignite what was left to smolder.” (Think she was tempted to sing “what was left of her shoulder”?) Elsewhere on this haunting nine-track set Wagner dials down the lyrical shock-and-awe a bit; in the relatively jaunty “No Hands” she even pauses a bike ride long enough to admire “the sun filter[ing] through the trees.” But there’s never any of the sweetening you expect from folks working in this kind of post-Nick Drake mode: no pillowy string arrangements or harmony vocal parts designed to reassure you that somebody else is out there. Wagner keeps her music as lean — and as sharp — as a razor’s edge.