Canadian musician Clara Engel has a voice and sound that is impossible to forget. Her gentle vocals and quiet sound instantly grabs you and pulls you into the world that she has created. Listeners are absorbed in a wall of sound that is equal parts haunting and comforting. In 2020, Engel released two albums: Hatching Under the Stars and A New Skin. The latter album is one of her best records to date.
The opening track “Starry Eyed Goat” sets the tone for the album with its haunted atmospheric sound. Engel’s voice seems to float in and out over the quiet chords of the guitar. Strings make their appearance but slowly fade away.
“Little Alien Lost” is a moody song with its lyrics on loneliness. “Loving’s a gamble/ an overripe miracle/ it’s a little alien lost in the woods” is repeated throughout the song and I found myself drawn to its sadness. While listening to this track, I was constantly reminded of Chelsea Wolfe’s acoustic songs that bring forth feelings of reflection and melancholia.
“Gossamer Knives” is one of the standout tracks from the album with its ambient sound. Engel has a remarkable way of creating a certain atmosphere that sucks you in. The guitar riffs seem to struggle to come through the ether as Engel’s whispery vocals float along.
The album closer “A New Skin” is the longest track on the record and is a fitting end. Engel’s vocals rise and fall throughout the song as her gentle strumming moves the song along its comfortable pace. I enjoyed this song a lot as it seemed to be a warm and bright spot in the total darkness of the other tracks.
A New Skin is a phenomenal record that shows Engel expanding upon her melancholic sound while also maintaining a wonderful restraint. This album is a clear masterwork in minimalism and dark folk that makes me eager to see what Engel does next.