Earwig's sole proper album before the group mutated into Insides continued and perfected the clean, gripping minimalism of its earlier singles, polished to a tense, intriguing shine. Starting with the lengthy title track, Under My Skin arguably trumps what Stereolab was supposedly doing at the same time, namely marrying deceptively strong lyrics to a cool performance, vocally and musically. The key difference lies in the bands' preferred musical approaches -- while both have an affinity for minimalism in a pop context, Earwig aims for a more consciously "modern" approach, referring to the likes of Factory Records instead of Krautrock surge and snarl. Kirsty Yates' vocals are downright clipped in their stark beauty, half-spoken half-crooned, while her subject matter pitilessly eviscerates relationships and the bleakest of moments in emotional gamesmanship. A sample of some of the harsher moments, from "Scraped Out": "I thought you'd save me/I thought you'd entertain me/Get me drunk and buy me babies/Will I have bad dreams/Will I still have the scars you gave me." Meanwhile, the carefully constructed blend of deliberate, careful guitar and bass playing mixed with synth loops and chimes, either with crisp drum machine rhythms or able to maintain the pace on their own, seems beamed out of a beautifully antiseptic paradise, grit and grime nowhere found. Yates, Sergei Tardo, and Dimitri Voulis seem to have a knack for working in perfect sync, creating material that could easily be from one person as from many. As songs progress, the layering of sonics often does so as well, a slow swelling of atmospheres and progressions that's subtly fascinating, before gently pulling back at the end. Other points provide gentle, lovely reflections and filigrees, like the instrumental breaks on "Every Day Shines," or sudden moments of strong drama, like the full percussion hits and feedback on "Safe in My Hands."
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett