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AVEC – “Heaven/Hell”

An artist, who’s all grown up. Well, at least in a musical sense, because at just 23 years of age the Upper Austrian AVEC is still a long way away from being called ‘old’. “Heaven/Hell” is the new album from an artist whose amazing rise has caused quite a stir in the last few years, and it’s an impressive confirmation of the fact that the shy musician has dared to take that vital step forward in terms of development, with her distinctive, emotive, soft yet coarse vocals.

While her roundly praised debut “What If We Never Forget” predominantly displayed a youthful sense of melancholy, her latest work shows signs of growth in a number of areas. The last few years of being in the spotlight, spending time on the road and making numerous international festival appearances have shaped AVEC, and her music has audibly grown up, too. The young Upper Austrian appeared to come from nowhere in 2015, with her first published records smashing the sound barrier in terms of number of plays on a whole host of music streaming platforms – her song “Granny” has been streamed on Spotify almost 6 million times since it launched – and AVEC has learned a lot from her experiences so far, and has, in her own words, “basically grown from everything”. “Today, I just feel more grown up, and I view things in a different light.”

Moving away from her previous sound

“Heaven/Hell” certainly contains a number of surprises, not least because in her new material, the young singer/songwriter displays some sides to herself which had hitherto remained concealed. Of course the quieter, more melancholic moments which made the first album the intense listening experience that it was are not absent, though. They’re still in the mix, and once again ensure that the album is full of spine-tingling emotion (“Alone”, “Breathe”). But this time you’ll notice new elements, such as the growth in AVEC’s musical expression which lends the whole story an unfamiliar, exciting flavour. These new songs make it clear that AVEC has undergone an intensive process of development, and that she knows more than ever before what she wants, and in which direction she should take things.

The new tracks are, in a sense, more edgy, and they come through the speakers with a rougher sound than before. The Upper Austrian shows that every now and then, she’s not afraid to depart from the direction which has up until now served her well. Things are also more upbeat this time, and she takes risks by completely stepping outside her comfort zone in terms of her established song formats, but even that is always handled in her own unique manner. When things get even faster and move more towards dance music, like in the opening track “Love”, or in “Under Water” and “Still”, the general thrust remains, as always with AVEC, typically thought-provoking and melancholic – partly thanks to her profoundly deep lyrics. This is also the case with the tracks “Yours” and “Heaven/Hell”, as well as on the exceptionally atmospheric “Close”, which rises up wonderfully, and gets deep under your skin, as AVEC consciously allows herself to become more experimental.

With “Heaven/Hell”, AVEC delivers an impressive response to the questions, ‘why is she there, where does she stand, and why is she such an exceptional figure in the Austrian music scene, talked about so much internationally?’ In her music, she finds the exact tone to reach directly into the soul and express exactly what you’re feeling, and from the very first second, she invites you to give yourself away completely to what she presents. Yes, that’s how special and beautiful pop music can be.

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