Sublime sophomore album from Ms Amy Birks heads into darker yet beautifully seductive territory.
Release Date: 17th June 2022
Label: Own label
Format: CD / digital / LP
A couple of years ago, we had the pleasure of waxing lyrical over the All That I Am & All That I Was album as Ms Amy Birks reimagined her experience from Beatrix Players into new territories. She also appeared on That Joe Payne’s By Name. By Nature. and being subscribers to PROG magazine, find her name and her comings and goings regularly monitored and acknowledged in numerous awards.
We called that first solo work “a Godsend to those who’ve been in search of the ‘new Kate Bush” which seems to have hit the mark, but her new work In Our Souls, finds that tag fading – no more mentions of Ms B – as Ms Amy emerges as a fully formed, fully fledged and unique talent.
There’s an element of familiarity as the influence of strong female characters is again to the fore and there’s a trilogy of songs that provides a focal point. The opening piece which is also the title track, draws on the first of three Bronte sisters poem (Charlotte Bronte’s In Our Souls) and it’s frankly stunning. The challenge for us listeners is to allow the track to finish and try to resist the temptation of simply hitting the repeat button for another (and another) listen. I failed. Hardly surprising considering the delicacy and arrangement that finds a rich string part and a subtly distant angelic voices that build into a gentle march. It’s a picture of exquisiteness.
Ms Amy furthered her knowledge of the sisters and their personal musical leanings through several trips to Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage (it’s a regular place of pilgrimage for the Ainscoe clan too…) prior to selecting poems that would provide inspiration for the album. They provide the icing on the cake.
Elegance is the key – the watchword that appears from the first moment and flows gently through the album. Aided and abetted by significant contributions from violinist Frank Van Essen and cellist Clare O’Connell and John (brother of Steve…) Hackett on flute. There’s also the presence of Helena Dove and Tom Manning from the original Beatrix Players. Together they’re a unit totally in harmony.
However, patience is a virtue, eventually getting past the opening four minutes (took me about five goes…) and sticking with the Bronte trilogy, The Dream comes from the words of Anne Bronte. It’s what Ms Amy describes as “more like a singer-songwriter piece,” with a hint of background choral in the arrangement that provides a brief suggestion of drama and darkness. Speaking of which, A Death Scene was inspired by a work by Emily Bronte, with a Beethoven/Liszt influenced piano arrangement that’s much more sombre. An arrangement that conjures up visions of the desolation of the Yorkshire moors that’s countered with a little sway and swing. The perfect combination of words and music and the Birks/Bronte combo feels almost like sharing a writing credit with Shakespeare..
Having gorged on the three Bronte tracks, eight further pieces provide an embarrassment of riches. From the relatively aggressive and bold Hold On to the controlled passion of Brothers and the haunting The Woman In White the moods and textures undulate ingeniously. A fluid bassline leads the way on Goodnight For Now that’s as mournful as it is thought provoking and the aching romanticism and ruminations of The One That Got Away is a match for the eye and ear catching Bronte trilogy; yet for something a little more left field, hang on until Cannot Conatain where the strings play a secondary role to a rhythmic piece with Eastern leanings – Babooshka-ish if you want to pick up on a theme – before adding a hefty swirl to proceedings.
In Our Souls is a gorgeous album. The genius of it all is how not a note is wasted as the development of Ms Amy Birks shines through yet retains her unique style and exceptional songcraft.
Here’s the title track – words taken from Charlotte Bronte’s poem – Evening Solace – and featuring dancer Courtney Cork::