thu 20/06/2019

CD: Nick Mulvey - First Mind | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Nick Mulvey - First Mind

CD: Nick Mulvey - First Mind

Evocative, inspiring acoustic pop from ex-Portico Quartet talent

Nick Mulvey, a blur of understated brilliance

Ah, Jeff Buckley - so much to answer for. Damien Rice, Bon Iver, William Fitzsimmons, James Morrison, David Gray, James Vincent McMorrow, Chet Faker, Joshua Radin and on and on and on, endless waves of male singer-songwriters – usually bearded - who signify emotion through falsetto voice-breaking, the most tired, tedious technique in modern pop and rock. There have been valiant attempts to send things in new directions but no one bought them (eg Jack Peñate’s “Tonight’s Today” single). It would be a welcome wonder, then, if the sterling debut solo album from Nick Mulvey, once of crossover jazzers Portico Quartet, came to be regarded as a brave new blueprint.

Mulvey doesn’t feel compelled to push his voice into zones of hysterical vulnerability yet he remains heartfelt, poetic, intimate, his humanity emphasised by a shyness, a hint of mumble and rhotacism (fudging the “r” sound, and, yes, I did have to look it up). He has also pushed the acoustic guitar template somewhere new. Having trained at a guitar academy in Cuba, he takes plucked motifs, ranging from the Hispanic to the Indian-sounding, and hypnotically revolves them to create an instrumental bed. Over this, electronics are gently, melodically bought to bear, sometimes strings too, mingling with his measured tones to create something uniquely involving and compulsive.

Mulvey’s lyrics build word paintings, taking us to many places, from a tropical journey into childhood on “Cucurucu” to a cosmic vision of English spring on “April” to a meditation on our need to intoxicate ourselves on "Juramidam" (“Too much time drinking whisky and wine/The last cup is always like the first”). That his music draws the listener in with such gentle ease is extraordinary. Despite its smoothness, it has a spiralling potency. There is something of classical serialism in there, of jazz, of Brian Eno, of Vini Reilly, of Robert Wyatt, yet it is none of those things and nothing like them. It is a new acoustic pop, approachable and lovely and ripe for summertime.

Overleaf: watch the video for "Cucurucu"

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