'Monsterverse Unplugged' EP by Emma McGannReview
A theme I return to from time to time is my surprise & admiration for artists whose "prime" releases seem so rooted in their arrangements and owe much of their identity to them that it's hard to imagine them in any format other than that we hear in the original release.
Already this had implications for artists I reported on playing at the Godiva Festival last weekend: for example you'll remember my tipping my hat to Luna Kiss for their very much re-arranged acoustic set & for Duke Keats managing to capture ‘Dirty Glamour' in that way too.
Over the years I've been surprised how electro-pop such as that purveyed by Ivy Ash has translated to acoustic variant releases & I suppose that and the fact that I reported from Godiva 2022 on how Emma McGann conveyed her material on just an acoustic guitar should have prepared me for the possibility of her release today of an unplugged version of her ‘Monsterverse' EP: though I confess I still didn't think it was possible. (The tracklisting remains the same:: "HEX", "Monsters", "Anyone Else" and "Wild Thoughts").
In the end though, great crafted writing is great crafted writing & should not be constrained by its arrangement & I think we can, by hearing two such different versions of these songs, applaud Emma for her composition: not that anyone was in any doubt about that naturally.
I said back in November last year (in my original review of the EP) "..‘Monsterverse' is a wonderful achievement on its own merits & the fact that Emma & team have managed to create such intricate yet compelling music with such depth within the parameters of mainstream music is hugely to their credit….. As well arranged and performed as you'll expect from an artist of this calibre, and yes, fully in touch with contemporary expectations of sound in terms of accessibility & dance capability…" Well if you are dealing with the subject of monsters & trying to get people to dance to it at the same time, then you couldn't fault the original arrangement nor production could you?
In fact this variation seems to be doing something significantly different: complementing the first release but highlighting aspects which may have got overlooked by those eager to dance first (and this is a theme I've pondered over in articles for some time: do people give sufficient attention to thoughtful & thought provoking lyrics in dance orientated songs? Not only Emma, but artists like Rheo Uno, Abz Winter & Ivy Ash may to varying degrees not be getting the full credit for the depth of their writing which they deserve: thankfully Emma is giving us the opportunity to balance that here.
Clearly the lyrics get greater prominence here & the more downbeat & intimate delivery foregrounds more the possibility of the monsters as an internal phenomenon rather than fantastical: maybe leaving the fun of the minutely imagined interactive game of first time round for the serious & sober business lying behind it. But that's really important isn't it? Without this complement, a percentage of her hard work & creation may have got unfairly overlooked.
Emma is also jolly good at this form of delivery & if it's no longer her defining career style, it's good to be reminded that she still is far from a single genre artist and to be honest to hear her voice stripped back from the layers of processing is a blast from the past.
Music with a big heart.