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Amy DuncanAmy Duncan
Album: Undercurrents
Label: Filly
Tracks: 12
Amy Duncan is a Scottish singer/songwriter based in Edinburgh, whose wonderfully melodious singing and emotionally honest songwriting proves an unbeatable combination. In 2012 I reviewed an appealing, if unassuming mini-album collaboration between Amy and harpist Fiona Rutherford, but that gently exciting project couldn't have prepared me for the sublime magic and hypnotic invention of Amy's solo album Undercurrents - which it turns out is her fifth.

Like its predecessor, 2013's Cycles Of Life, it was produced by Calum Malcolm, with an acute attention to detail and a real gift for conjuring ambience. His imaginative style of production sounds tailor-made for Amy's writing too. Amy displays a supple vocal technique and accompanies herself on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and double bass, while her chief musical collaborators are Fiona Rutherford (harp), Lawrie MacMillan (bass), Liam Bradley (drums), who are augmented for much of the time by three string players from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Soundscapes are, appropriately, warm and gently lush, with smoothly polished yet intricately realised timbres gliding in and out of the texture. Amy's voice is a commandingly expressive instrument, and engages from the word go, on The Good Life. As the moods shift through Fragile From The Storm and No Harvest, the listener's carried along with the tide of vulnerable emotion, which ebbs and flows on through Different Dimensions and The Truth Never Changes, and out into the disc's finale, the slightly disturbing, pulsating title track. Amy's lyrics inhabit a quietly stunning poetical world, and, while her voice proves their ideal vehicle, Calum's intelligently layered production consummates their impact.

The only small caveat is that the impact of the disc's flowing sequence of songs is marginally reduced towards the end of the disc where successive songs adopt a broadly similar tempo and the mesmeric effect becomes a tad too uniform. But positive, life-affirming sentiments win the day, and the beguiling depths of the music itself reflect those undercurrents perfectly.

David Kidman