VON GREY Return To Their Roots and Continue to Bloom With New Acoustic EP
Review by Lynn Roy
Atlanta-based trio VON GREY, comprised of sisters Annika, Fiona, and Kathryn, are difficult to categorize and in no danger of becoming stagnant in their art. Classically trained instrumentalists, their music seamlessly blends orchestral instruments such as cello and violin with more moderns sounds like synth and electric guitar. Their recently released EP In Bloom brings the group full circle, returning to their acoustic roots with new songs and acoustic remakes of several previous releases.
The album opens with “Plans”, a song that will feel familiar to anyone who has ever struggled with feelings of failure, inadequacy, or stagnation. Opening with a simple piano, the song laments “I have moved no mountains. I have just stood still.” Strings and gentle harmonies enter: high, ethereal voices that emphasize the emptiness of feeling useless and helpless to change. The bridge reveals some comfort for these anxieties in an understanding lover, but the piano and cello swell again with the final “I am not a ghost quite yet, still here I go making plans.” The sound transitions perfectly into “6AM”, a new acoustic recording of a song from the group’s 2017 EP Trinity, as if it had been written to follow “Plans”. The song is swirling with the complexities of two imperfect people in an imperfect relationship, full of all the contradictions of making choices around strong emotions.
“Poison in the Water” is another remake of a track from Trinity. The richness of the cello adds to the dark tone inherent in the song’s increasingly dire warnings and the frequent repetition of “There is a Judas among us.” In contrast to the original recording, the acoustic version uses the power of silences to heighten the tension, allowing the song to breathe as we hear the vocalists’ breath before the next line. This song showcases how well the sisters’ voices complement each other. Near the end, Fiona seamlessly takes over lead vocals from Annika and powers through the final verse, ramping up the tension even more, before the song ends with more delicate harmonies that round out the mysterious scene created.
“Unclean” returns to the theme of inadequacy, this time of feeling unworthy in a relationship. The speaker offers “apologies for what lies beneath” and hopes her partner, who she views as “untainted” in comparison, will continue to accept her if she confesses her inner darkness. The much lighter “Closer to You” opens with acapella harmonies before bringing in the instruments. It contains contains fewer conflicting emotions than the other tracks, instead taking its main energy for the verses from staccato cello and violin. Yet even the most upbeat track of the album has anxieties creeping in: “I’m disappointed by everything I do. I’m sick of everyone but you.” Being human, no relationship is free from worries and imperfections, but here the lyrics are not entirely overrun with these fears. Instead, the early “Thank God you fell for me too” sets up a positive backdrop that allows the sailing, up-tempo chorus to balance out the negativity.
The album closes with “Dawn”, a gentle piece that uses the group’s delicate harmonies to a softer effect than the previous tracks. The speaker offers her strength and “a soft shoulder for you to lean on” to a sister who is burdened with the weight of life. Throwing off the internal struggles of the previous songs, this piece focuses solely on the other person’s needs, offering unconditional support and encouragement that “hope will be in the light corners of the dawn,” a compelling and comforting picture of women supporting each other.
This is an album to play on repeat. Despite the seeming simplicity of instrumentation, each listen reveals new complexities. This was clearly the right time for an acoustic album for this group, and all signs point to more excellent things to come.