[5 March 2014]
It’s hard to write about von Grey without sounding a bit like a condescending geezer. But to hell with it – four sisters, all under 20, are making a joyful noise that betrays an almost alarming maturity, and that’s damned exciting news. Their EP Awakening builds on their Celtic/Americana roots into new and fascinating places, and if they haven’t quite found their footing yet, it’s doubtless they have it in them to be the next big thing.
“Keep It Cool” kicks it off with a gorgeous guitar intro, nicely complimented by the cello & bass of Kathryn (19 – yes, I’m including their ages) and keyboard work of – well, these women are multi-instrumentalists, so it could be Annika (17), Fiona (16), or Petra (13). That such a simple progression feels so powerful and true is a testament to their canny talent, but they are in no way playing it safe.
Okay, “Come On”, with its tight harmonies and effortless Cali-pop breeze, is a little safe. But if it comes uncomfortably close to conjuring Wilson-Phillips (“Come on, come on now / Can’t you see what’s going down”), it’s delivered with an infectious joy that would be absolutely welcome on today’s Top 40. But it’s the next cut, the odd, splendid “Deliverance” that proves that von Grey isn’t settling for platitudes. They begin this one with an odd choral arrangement before taking us into uncharted territory when everything slows down for a big chorus of “Show me the truth / In the night, in the light”. And before you have a chance to wonder why these teenagers are searching for transcendence, they offer a stomping violin breakdown that takes us all to a higher plane. This is strange, ethereal pop music, unencumbered by genre, but it’s so warm and welcoming that it never feels challenging.
But they’re not letting you off the hook yet. “Upset Me” offers an unsettling 5/8 rhythm, keeping you on edge until it reaches its soaring bridge, while “Ashes” lightens things up a bit with its delightfully bouncing keyboard lick. But it’s the closer “My Reflection” that’s staying with me the most – with a Souixsie-like synth lick, driving acoustic guitars and uncomfortably intense and adult delivery, it recalls ‘80s new wave at its most fluid. The slightly awkward bridge lowers the mist a bit, but by then we are fully under the spell of these insanely talented sisters. Here’s hoping the impressive media tour that put von Grey on the map helps get them the mass audience they deserve; Awakening proves their future will be as bright as they want it to be.