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Skin Deep Vanessa Ague , November 23rd, 2022 08:50

Porto's Ana Rita de Melo Alves offers up an audio diary as intimate as it is experimental

On Skin Deep, anrimeal takes an abstract approach to the audio diary, writing music that chronicles the ups and downs of her life in distorted, choppy phrases that often feel just out of reach. It takes a personal approach, following her day-to-day life like a documentarian. But no scene ever feels like a perfect rendering – rather, her music often feels surreal, coloured with the wistfulness of dusting off your own diary from years past and unearthing the most meaningful moments.

anrimeal recorded Skin Deep over the course of one month, April 2022, with the hopes of finding transformation in the process. The album evolves out of the London-based artist’s 2020 debut, Could, Divine, which codified her poignant sound that’s a hybrid of folk, pop, and ambient. But where Could, Divine felt like a daydream; Skin Deep is a rough-hewn collage. Here, anrimeal makes music that zigzags between her different influences, turning from field recordings of her day and poetic interludes to short, emo-influenced songs to feathery electronic sequences. Its winding nature mimics the unpredictability of everyday life, highlighting how the small moments we experience accumulate into something larger.

When anrimeal lets her influences mix into one statement, her music often proves the most surprising, and compelling. The lilting guitar and plain vocals of ‘happiness is body language’ gradually morph into haunted, dark electronics, creating a hazy shroud; the bright, ambient electronics of ‘ways of seeing’ give way to a field recording from a day at Piccadilly Circus and, eventually, a chorus of pillowy hums; ‘narrative pt. 2’ beats a pulse born out of vivid flute trills that fade into a cloud of electronics. These tracks each showcase anrimeal’s range, where others, like the emo and indie-influenced songs ‘i never do’ and ‘i want’ feel more predictable and cloying; the final track, ‘westward’, which announces that the month is over, feels too on-the-nose.

Yet in her search for transformation, anrimeal finds her greatest strength. Throughout, her poetry guides her music, bobbing in and out of her lush instrumentals like a passing thought. Early on, she notes that “things are different” – “I see people in a different way,” she says, “I’m tired of sacrificing myself.” She’s uncertain but assured – “it’s not perfect but it’s really beautiful … I think I’m happy” – using her gentle music to chart a course towards something more fulfilling. As the end of the album nears, one of the loudest phrases we hear is “it’s very, very peaceful.” From that point, anrimeal’s melancholy atmospheres shift, finally shimmering anew.