Clara Engel – A New Skin: Album Review

Clara Engel sneaks another new album out before the end of 2020; A New Skin is a mysteriously brooding collection of dark folk songs.

Release date: 21st December 2020

Label: Self Release (Bandcamp)

Format: Digital / CD

A New Skin is Clara Engel’s second album of 2020. Hatching Under The Stars was released in April 2020. A New Skin was recorded over the course of what has been a tumultuous year for so many reasons. According to Engel, the instrumentation that features on A New Skin is just cigar box guitar, electric guitar, melodica, harmonica, and voice. It’s impeccably produced for a completely DIY project.

Clara Engel
Clara Engel

Throughout A New Skin, Clara’s beautiful, deep voice offers warmth and solace on top of sparsely plucked guitars, haunting synths and sporadic lamenting melody lines. All the parts juxtapose well to create a richly decorated tapestry of sounds.

Starry Eyed Goat sets the tone for the album with the synths subtly underpinning the composition. There is a hint of latter day Nick Cave / Warren Ellis in the way the song moves. A repetitive and hypnotic strummed guitar line plays throughout with woodwind like accompaniment chiming in to add further ashen colour to a brilliant opener.

The Garden Is Sleeping follows in much the same vein. It evokes a feeling of cold and conjures up images of snow covered plains. It sounds extremely bleak, and in many ways it is; however the beauty that can be found with a focused listen to A New Skin is boundless.

Without a doubt, it is Clara Engel’s voice that steals the show on A New Skin. It is dark, brooding and full of intrigue for the most part but she has a diversity that shows on songs like Little Alien Lost where the pitch goes slightly higher and shows a fascinating fragility. Her voice is reminiscent of one of our favourites of 2020; Laura Fell.

Gossamer Knives plays with harmonic effects a lot more. In keeping with the definition of gossamer, the delicacy with which the song is built is wondrous. ‘Not of this world,’ sings Engel; it’s a good way to think of Clara Engel’s work. She has the ability to take the listener to otherworldly places.

Night Tide, On Nightingales Wings and the title track all have lengthy running times as songs. When producing music like this, you really need something special to hold attention to ensure that you don’t slip over the edge of threnody. Clara Engel is captivating in her lyrics, delivery and the nocturnal aura of the music. Night Tide introduces harmonies into the mix ensuring that lengthier run times don’t become a chore. The title track ends with layered harmonies bringing A New Skin to a soul stirring end.

Another aspect of Clara Engel’s work is the artwork. She produced many of her own original album covers and A New Skin is no exception. The red tree image with roots shaped as hands gripping the earth is very evocative of the album.

A New Skin is a fitting end to 2020. It shows the bleakness of the year that has been, but the warmth that this album generates will take you into 2021 and keep you warm for the cold months ahead. Allow A New Skin to give you a hug and let this album unravel in your ears over the coming months. If you’re a fan of Emma Ruth Rundle, Nick Cave, A A Williams or the aforementioned Laura Fell then A New Skin will enrapture you.

You can read Clara’s piece that she contributed to our Why I Love column here.

Clara Engel is an immensely prolific artist. Check out all her work on Bandcamp. Watch the captivating video for Starry Eyed Goat.

Clara Engel: Bandcamp / Facebook / Twitter / Patreon

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