Living in the good old U.S. of A., we take our musical freedoms for granted. There’s no Big Brother apparatus there to punish us for blasting Britney in a crowded elevator, just the angry glances of those around us. This is a country where everyone is entitled to listen to whatever moves them, be it death metal, dubstep or dumbed-down pop music. But for chamber-pop songstress Anne Freier—best known as I Am Harlequin—things were different. Freier grew up in East Germany in the final years of the socialist GDR regime. Until the Berlin Wall fell, the music she was exposed to consisted primarily of opera and ballet. After the regime collapsed, she got to enjoy the pop and rock music that the rest of the world had been spinning in its cassette players for years. The two musical spheres collided, and Freier’s musical sensibilities began to solidify.
A seasoned musician trained in composition and theatrics, Freier has spent the past five years in London, experimenting with folk, classical and pop music in a style she deems “epic indie pop.” It’s epic, all right: Songs like “The King’s Daughter” marry Freier’s husky contralto with heroic drums, lush orchestration and an intricate patchwork of harmonies. “Because He Loves Them Both,” meanwhile, features an angelic-sounding choir and galloping strings. The complexity has roots on both sides of the Wall: 20th-century Russian classicists like Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff, but also the Broadway bravado of Stephen Sondheim and Kate Bush. Perhaps most impressive of all is Freier’s management of every aspect of I Am Harlequin, from the songwriting and production to recording and even the cover art on her debut A-side.
Freier still finds time for other projects when she’s not crafting new, epic tunes. She’s always at work at a score or a script back home in London, one eye to the horizon and one on the piano.
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