Most artists don’t bother getting their master’s degrees but for Danish singer Lisa Alma it seemed like the natural thing to do.
“I got really interested in feminist theory, performance art, the whole vibe that started with John Cage and got developed into the performance art scene in New York in the 70s,” said Alma, who holds a master’s degree in theater and performance studies. “But I always did the practical stuff on the side while I was studying theory.”
Back when she was a young student at the London Centre of Contemporary Music, Alma discovered the electronic music that creates the basis for the restrained dream-pop of her debut self-titled album. She plays the Fremont Abbey Saturday night with Argentinian singer-songwriter Federico Aubule.
Songs like “J.T.” set the tone: subtle production, a low-key vibe and Alma’s mournful vocals. It’s the kind of music you put on to wind a busy day down.
“I like the electronic scene but I also like the pop scene, especially Scandinavian pop,” Alma said. “And of course great artists like Sinead O’Connor. For the newer stuff, for example I like James Blake.”
Alma had the luxury of recording the album in her home studio. She self-released it late last year and was picked up by Ikaros Records, who re-released the album.
She sings in English, which is a second language for most Danes. They start learning English in the fourth grade, but choosing English went beyond trying to reach a broader audience.
“We speak Danish of course back home and I admire so many Danish artists for actually writing in Danish, but for me it’s a difficult language to write in because it gets to close to you, in a way,” Alma said. “English for me is music, in a way. The artists who I have been listening to have been singing in English. It’s like a musical puzzle for me writing in English. Writing in English gives me the distance to be more musical with the words, and I also think I have the right distance to be close enough. It’s a paradox in a way.”
It’s been a busy year for Alma, who has gone from being unsigned to touring the United States.
“I think the music culture over here, audiences are very embracing in a way, or maybe I’ve just been lucky up to now,” Alma said. “In Denmark or Sweden or Germany, when you play the audience is very much your critic. They stand with their arms crossed and you can actually be a little bit afraid, I would say. And then of course to experience distances here. Each city is so different from the next one. It’s weird, but it’s good.”
Lisa Alma/Federico Aubule
7 p.m. Saturday, Fremont Abbey, 4272 Fremont Ave. N; $12 (800-838-3006 or fremontabbey.org)
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails