Gemma Rose and Miranda Lee are Dagmar—a band born from the eight-year groundwork laid by their previous trio Rock Paper Scissors, which created music of an acoustic jazz and vocal harmony style reminiscent of ‘40s swing. Rose and Lee took their vocal harmony chops and channeled them in a new musical direction with their album Afterlight.
Dagmar’s vocal harmonies underpins the ethereal tapestry of their music. “What Do You Want,” the opening track on Afterlight, sets the stage for the album. The light timekeeping of percussion (Justin LeDuc of Jack Lion) and sparse instrumentation (assisted by Dana T on guitars) stay out of the way of the circular chanting vocals that build in Philip Glass-style arpeggio progressions. When one vocal strays from the chants, the departure is deeply arresting. The lyrics linger with the listener: “My heart opens, I breathe you in, as you walk away. Now I’m barefoot on the cold, hard floor in this empty space.” When the voices come back together the song builds to a driving beat and a shared cry, “Let me get out, let me get out.”
While listening to the album, I found myself frequently caught in the embrace of beautiful vocals, riding each glorious crescendo to resolution while losing track of time and place. At times, the music echoes the harmonies of Fleet Foxes, and at other times it seems to rise from the same wooded atmospherics as Bon Iver. It harbors the aching folk of Iron and Wine.
But none of these comparisons capture the music either. Listening to Dagmar is like listening to the beautiful, hypnotizing songs of two sirens—ones steering you not toward shipwreck, but toward heartbreak.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 180