Indie, Pop, Roots
Emiliana Torrini, Massive Attack, Air, PJ Harvey
Amy Vee - vocals, guitars, keys, synth, violin Gareth Hudson - everything else Andrew Sampford - keys, synth, vocals (on tour)
By Nick Milligan
The name of Amy Vee’s beguiling new album might suggest music concerned with the surface of things, but Same Skin cuts far deeper. It’s a seductive and sumptuous exploration of both the ever-changing and constant elements of the soul.
Vee’s 2013 debut record Fits and Starts emitted pop radiance, was steeped in folk conventions and built around her acoustic guitar and the stinging purity of her voice. But a momentary listen to the opening title track of Vee’s new record conveys the shift in direction and the expansion of sound.
Same Skin is a mature musical evolution, both sonically and in subject matter. If the warmth of Fits and Starts gave it a sunny disposition, this successor is the creeping shadow of dusk. Vee’s voice is pure and purposeful, iridescent as it floats through the spacious, minimal production of openers ‘Same Skin’ and ‘Ten Years’. Haunted textures echo in the distance, weightless over kinetic experimental beats and electronic accoutrement.
These ten new tracks are visited by ghosts of the past and present, as Vee peers into her reflection and ruminates on the artist and person she has become.
“There is a general theme about being able to move on from or accept the past,” says the Hunter-based songwriter. “There are a lot of references to ghosts… things that haunt us or hold us back. The track ‘Same Skin’ came from my feelings about age… that the outside changes but the same feelings, beliefs, motivations, ideas, desires still exist.”
Aside from her introspection, Vee’s most potent new track is ‘If Not Now, When’, a song inspired by the student accounts of the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Florida in February 2018.
“I had read a bunch of stories about the victims and the verses in the song are vignettes based on those stories,” Vee explains. “I usually write in more abstract form, with the lyrics moving around particular themes or feelings but this was more narrative. It’s difficult for me to accept how complacent we seem to have become about events like these. I was so inspired by the way the students responded - their strength and wisdom.”
On Same Skin Vee again worked with producer Gareth Hudson, but wanted to push their creative partnership. The singer-songwriter left room in the studio process to develop the tracks and see what they could conjure.
“Usually I come in with almost fully-formed ideas but I left a bit of space this time so Gareth and I could experiment and play,” says Vee. “He’s excellent at that – I’m still learning!”
Allowing ideas to develop on their own terms remains a key facet of Vee’s approach. “I try not to pre-empt the sound too much and just let it happen organically,” Vee explains. “If I try to write in a particular genre or style it feels too forced. It’s probably a cliché but I try to just be a vessel for the songs… let them come through me however they may. Then when I’m in the studio we play with sounds and find what gives the songs the most potency.”
Same Skin closes with a cover of the Japan song ‘Ghosts’, written by their frontman and New Romantic icon David Sylvian.
“I only heard it a couple of years ago for the first time and I just loved the whole feeling of the song and instantly connected with it,” Vee says. “I also thought it tied in nicely with the themes and sounds of the album so I decided to include it. I also learned that it charted in the UK when it was released, which for its time I thought was really unusual, for something so ambient and obscure - I think it’s just one of those songs that vibrates on a common frequency. It really gets you and you don’t know why.”
It’s a stirring and stark finale, speaking to and evoking the ghosts that permeate this atmospheric album.