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Quinn, Una: Inside Out

Una Quinn is from Armagh in the north of Ireland, although she has now lived in Liverpool for the last 25 years. It was here that she met the hugely talented and renowned solo and band artist Neil Campbell, with whom she has collaborated on two thirds of the nine tracks on her debut album, Inside Out; the other three coming from Quinn alone. Built on a miniscule budget and with the help of friends and family as the undergraduate in Music negotiated ‘an increasingly oppressive benefits system’, the end results are a hugely personal album which belies those threadbare circumstances to sound simultaneously sumptuous and stark. Categorisation is a challenge here, with the intention undoubtedly progressive but built on pop shimmers that lie a million miles from the mainstream. Kate Bush can be seen as a reference but then so could Alisha’s Attic if their sheen was stripped right back, what with the excellent vocals as often as not being multi-tracked and intent on unsettling.

Campbell, as expected, brings some incredibly nuanced acoustic guitar work into play, “Who Said” initially opening proceedings in a way that suggests a straight forward singer-songwriter experience; Quinn’s homeland accent a gentle lilt running through impassioned but always controlled vocals. With piano providing keen counterpoint and flute and clarinet (from Louis Bacchino and Michael Quinn respectively) gentle refrains, all seems simple enough but the longing within this song is heightened by clever arrangements which add chimes and shakers as Quinn’s voice begins to echo and become just a little unhinged. And by the track’s end things have moved into a far less comfortable situation.

Occasional spoken/ambient noise pieces join some of the songs together, “The Master” chiming into life with a grandfather clock playing against the sound of an air raid siren, planes overhead and the joyful shouts and claps of children. It’s evocatively engaging as Quinn heads into political disconnect against the system and questions many motivations behind the lives we are living. Intriguing though these subjects truly are, if there’s one thing that the tight budget has going against this album, then it’s the lack of lyrics to enhance the journey further. That however is small complaint given the inherently rhythmic slap and pop of “I, Octopus” where the vocal arrangement and interplay is raised a further notch. The effect being that of a heat haze shimmering in the distance on a sweltering day, with the claustrophobia kicking against a wide ranging outlook of hypnotic guitar spirals and, again, the constantly changing sounds and settings employed.

Even the more simply constructed “Small Wonder” toys with the senses through the layered vocals, this time augmented by Mark Quinn, while the chant and challenge of the album’s title cut takes a turn into the land of Peter Gabriel, where bare constructs are built to hit large and long while raising the hairs. Cleverly, “Steal Away” then pulls things back in a little, Mark Quinn once again facing off against Una’s vocals but this time on a slightly more straight ahead meld of melody and mood. A sprinkling of restrained electronic beats are questioned by “What If?” as Quinn continues to look around her and wonder how we got here. While Kate Bush once more springs to mind on “Losing Touches”, the barely in control but still intricate and intimate vocals the driving force as clicks, pops and trills build a heady atmosphere that swirls around your head, especially as cult TV’s The Prisoner’s ‘I am, not a number, I am a free man’ sample pokes and prods into the mind. Leaving “Sin e” to end this all too brief journey by hinting at the simplicity on which these deceptively complex structures are all built.

Being a keen follower of his work, it was the involvement of Neil Campbell that initially snagged my interest for Inside Out and at first I will admit that it and Una Quinn proved a difficult nut to crack. However, as the weeks have passed and I’ve found myself continually drawn back into this album’s inner intents, so its fragile but bullish beauty has become more and more obvious, making this an experience that can genuinely influence your mood and alter how you see the world around about you. If that isn’t reason enough to give it your time, then I’m not sure what is.

Track Listing
1. Who Said? 

2. The Master

3. I, Octopus 

4. Small Wonder 

5. Inside Out 

6. Steal Away 

7. What If?

8. Losing Touches

9. Sin e

Added: September 1st 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Una Quinn on bandcamp
Hits: 831
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Quinn, Una: Inside Out
Posted by on 2019-09-03 21:35:58
My Score:

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and insightful review. It really made me happy. Úna

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