Words by Ed King
It’s unfair for me to review Rae Morris. Why? Because ever since I heard Way Back When I’ve been subconsciously replaying the song in the back of my mind, circling a soundtrack of one round and round my far dark corners. I love it. I want to live in it. I’m so complicity obsessed by its melody not even my alarm clock stands a chance.
The first thing I notice is there’s no obvious piano. What??? They say that things that happen have a reason. OK, calm down; not every song in the world must be delivered on ivory. In its place we have a ticking clock, Natasha Khan whispers, and a mix of Chris Cunningham/Jean-Baptiste Mondino flickering across the screen.
I don’t like the ticking clock. It makes me think of Alice in Wonderland. And whilst I question this (I love Alice in Wonderland) the slow, slow, metro, nome, slow, slow-ly-takes-ho-ld.
Skin’s second verse brings in a soft bass drum, expelling the contrived hands of time and adding depth to the vocals – not that Morris’ voice need accompaniment, some of her finest moments have been acoustic.
I’m still not sure. But I realise my head has started, swaying, very, slightly as I watch the contrast and contortion on screen. Skin tells its story is through halls of empty marble, grayscale, soft lighting and tight fabrics. It’s very visual, very stylised and still very subtle. There’s some wonderfully simple photography (an arm stretching backwards across a wall, disguised floor to ceiling perspectives, severed close ups) which you could argue is Art4Art’s sake. And I occasionally wonder when the CK will appear. But I’m a cynic watching a video with chutzpah.
I’m starting to enjoy this. Or at least, I’m starting to stop comparing. There’s a certain elegance to it, both visually and audibly. I’m gently pushed along like a slow train; then at 55/6secs a subtle drop in Morris’ vocals introduces the chorus. 9secs later and my right hand is keeping time for a small invisible orchestra. After another 2mins 44sec I’m writing this review.
Rae Morris is a captivating songwriter. And I use the word deliberately. She’s delivered moments that owned me. You might not like her, there will be those that don’t; and between callous Pop and Saturday night television she was always going to lose part of the nation. But it gives me hope knowing that there’s more to come, from her and others with actually something to say.
Skin is far more polished than anything on Morris’ previous releases, with the marketing machines behind her stating it’s ‘the first glimpse of new material from her upcoming debut album.’ Which is great, there’s certainly time and money behind. So my only trepidation would be the potential distraction of production; an overzealous 3rd party missing the simple trick and adding too much padding. A ticking clock, for example.
But perhaps I too am an ‘overzealous 3rd party’. And I’d imagine between a booked out festival season and YouTube, there’ll be enough stages with just a stool and piano. If Skin is a glimpse of Rae Morris future I’m going to have to back down.
Why? Because of Grounded. Because of Grow. Because there’s an album out in summer. Because I’m excited. Because we’ve all seen artists over produced and diluted. Because vocals and piano might not be en vogue. Because of X Factor. Because the pressure to payback, tour, write and release must be intense. Because I don’t know. Because it must be easy to get lost. And, albeit more selfishly, because I want to make room for another song in my head.
For more on Rae Morris, including a free download of Skin, visit http://www.raemorris.co.uk