Sofie Birch – Casa Montjuïc (Barcelona) 2nd of February 2024


It feels odd to keep using the ‘ambient music’ label, given that the idea already exceeded the term coined half a century ago. There has been a lot of movement since then, with bursts of creativity and iconic works that intertwined the concept with different influences through the years, and we think that there’s been a lot of action specifically in the past decade and a half.

Many genre landmarks from different parts of the world have been released since then, online trends did their part in bringing in new listeners; and even more so with the COVID lockdown a couple years ago, when a wave of looking inwards and reshaping of creativity took place. Beat-less forms of music kept on flowing, and while we wouldn’t say that we’re at a revival of the chill-out rooms of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, we’re happy to witness some of the results of all of this.

The new ‘Music For Airports’ events series held at Casa Montjuïc confirms the programming seen sporadically last year: the repurposed space in Poble Sec that would present dance and theatre back in the day is now hosting renowned names in the ambient sphere (and everything else in-between), with great success. Recently we attended their second offering, receiving Sofie Birch, a sound artist known for her delicate blend of acoustics and electronics.

We arrived in time to listen to local talent Howodd Bensonmum, aka Djohnston, opening the night with a dj set that went from melodies to loops to deep synths until it grew in intensity and drama. We enjoyed the accordion-like motifs in the second half, and loved the inclusion of Mazzy Star in the mix close to the end, as Hope Sandoval’s voice always touches a fibre.

The mood was set: cushions on the floor around Birch´s setup of synths, reverb pedals and samplers, yet also bells, percussive instruments and microphone, with some flower bouquets ornaments here and there. On her second visit to Barcelona the Danish producer made a statement regarding ambient music as an experience linked to its environment. Setting the tone by saying a few words before her set, she explained that she still has stage fright, yet some time ago decided to try to connect with the audience to contrast the introspective characteristics of the genre she is known for.

Her performance felt like a ritual, before taking off her shoes and entering the stage Sofie Birch asked everyone to take a couple deep breaths, which the crowd happily obliged, and then laid down the first element she would start building off: field recordings from the sea (“recorded it in Madeira with my phone, everyone can do that!”).

From that moment on she started working her bells with hypnotic delicacy, making us think of heightened listening due to the changing distance of her instruments from the mic. It was rich enough to create attention, yet calm enough to enhance a deep state of mind. There were hints of tape music with muffled trumpets, delightful musique concrète happenings, and her singing as a cherry on top, unleashing her most personal and melodic touches.

We don’t know if the popularity of these sounds is the result of our need to escape within ourselves to heal, but gatherings like this one definitely make us wonder.

A. Sixta & Paranoid


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