Thursday, 6 April 2017

AMY DUNCAN

CD Review

Antidote


Amy Duncan has no truck with setting limitations on what she includes in her songs and music. Consequently what you get is a fascinating scrapbook of sounds which keep you flicking through the pages wondering what you are going to hear next.


Amy Duncan
Pic Steven Cook
Antidote is the Scottish musician’s sixth album and was mostly recorded at her home. She has surrounded her singing with a smorgasbord of melodies, harmonies and sounds which add colour, emotion and thoughtfulness to all the tracks.

Steady The Bow comes out of nowhere, with no introduction to speak of other than Duncan’s voice starting proceedings.

She has a gentle voice with a childlike quality but with an edge that has the ability to cut through anything surrounding it. Her style lies somewhere between Sinead O’Connor, Kate Bush and Dolores O’Riordan.

Her singing is highlighted by the slightly sultry sax of Sue McKenzie which helps to give the whole the feeling of something you would find late night on an obscure radio station.

Duncan keeps her voice breathy and in the higher range for The Journey but occasionally she forces it down into the bottom range where you can hear her struggling to keep it clean. What this does is create an emotional and slightly eerie ballad.

The bizarrely titled Severed Head is surpassed by the macabre lyrics where she talks of looking for somewhere to bury the offending article she is carrying in a bag. The matter of fact way in which she sings about the grisly subject adds a chilling quality.

With Alison within the first few bars Duncan creates an urban landscape with the siren sound effects and the smooth sax playing. This is the track where she sounds most like Bush pushing her innocent singing voice over the top of McKenzie’s brass instrument.
Sue Mckenzie

Golden Fox opens with beautiful birdsong echoing through woods. Duncan’s singing comes in almost as a chant and feels as much a part of the natural sound of the landscape as the birds. You can almost see her performing a ritual, outdoors dancing as she sings. Duncan’s keyboard playing also adds a fluid movement to the ethereal song.

Clearing sounds like a stream of thoughts from Duncan which you almost feel you are intruding upon. You almost get the feeling you have stumbled on her by chance, as you would a faerie ring, and her singing is the constant over the fractured undertones of the percussion and guitar playing.

Like a Pink Floyd track, This is the Road opens with sounds of everyday life leading you to the keyboard intro. Duncan sounds like she is indulging in vocal exercises as she stretches the notes like she is in competition with the silky tones of the sax.

The lyrics are minimal but effective as they bounce across the repetitive melody.

The muted sound of the guitar which opens Lost Balloon sounds almost like it’s being listened to on a radio. There is a definite sadness and feel of loss in her vocals akin to a draining experience to keep singing.

Pieces of Me is an abject example of how Duncan uses effects and random sounds like they were another musician on the team. Even though her voice often has a childlike quality on this track there is always a sense of something deeper and the story she is telling is of laying her personality and character bare.

The evocative sound of an ice cream van’s jingles bring in the penultimate track, The Caretaker. You get a sense of nostalgia with this song of lessons learned from childhood which have either stood you in good stead or have become hard to shake off.

The new album
She has a way of making this song connect with the listener even though the experiences and memories she sings about are remote and separate from anyone else.

The final and title track again comes in with sound effects and the xylophone which manages to carry an ominous tone. Duncan’s deeper and brooding singing adds to the atmosphere and the repetitive nature of the lyrics give it a slightly unhinged quality.

Duncan can use her voice to pull any music or sounds together and give them a harmony they really shouldn’t possess.

But her voice, along with her clever use of words and effects, weaves up and down the scale similar to a shuttle on a loom, weaving in and out of the strands pulling it all together into a whole which can only really be appreciated when the last strands are in place.

Antidote is out now on the Filly Records Label and distributed through Proper Music.