The Calming Darkness of ‘Neuroplasticity’

The Calming Darkness of ‘Neuroplasticity’

Adriana SaboTuesday,9 September 2014

The Snap: 

When the debut album of Cold Specks was released back in 2012, we all had a feeling that something big just happened. Or better yet, that something big was just announced and will happen sometime in the future. It seemed that I Predict a Graceful Expulsion was something like a deep breath that predicted an even stronger exhale or a storm. The music of Cold Specks leans heavily on the tradition of gospel and R&B, following the footsteps of many great vocalists such as Ruth Brown, for example. The signature sound of the band is created by the singer-songwriter Al Spx, whose strong, massive, beautiful voice will not leave anyone cold. After the release of her debut, all were left standing in wonder, thinking about what the next album will be like. Neuroplasticityreleased through Mute/Arts & Crafts, thus, feels like a closure to a certain extent, an ending to a story that begun with I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. But is is also opens up a new story, that will, hopefully, last for a great while longer.

The Download: 

Cold Specks’ second album brings ten new songs:

1. A Broken Memory

2. Bodies at Bay

3. Old Knives

4. A Quiet Chill

5. Exit Plan (Featuring Michael Gira)

6. Let Loose the Dogs

7. Absisto

8. Livig Signs

9. A Formal Invitation

10. A Season of Doubt

And they all, sounding much like one another, reveal the same atmosphere of shadowy calmness, with an occasional burst of emotion. Al Spx’s voice stands strongly out of from the rest of the band, as the music they play is, more often than not, meditative, dark and deep. On the other hand, Spx’s voice is strong, piercing and has an energy about it that will make you shiver. Now, when I say the music is dark, I don’t mean it in a creepy, death-calling way that, say, death-metal music is dark. In this case, the darkness and heaviness is achieved primarily thanks to the deep, full color of Spx’s voice that is at the same time harsh and whispering and able to move to incredible heights in points of climax.

Most of the album floats in this specific kind of warm, enjoyable darkness, in which the memory of gospel songs shines strong. Thus, there is not much contrast, not much difference between the tracks, which, on the one hand, ensures the sense of unity between the songs, but on the other, results in monotony. A very welcome change from this atmosphere (that never fully goes away) comes with “Living Sounds” and “Formal Invitation,” two faster, more energetic tracks with stronger beats, that show Spx’s potential to shake things up a bit. On the other hand, the strongest and possibly even the best song of the album remains a slow, ballad-like “Exit Plan,” a track in which the voice of the singer is particularly dazzling, especially in combination with the lyrics and a very minimal accompaniment that is being gradually built up to a climax.

Thus, Neuroplasticity contains, without doubt, some of the strongest, most captivating tracks that Cold Specks created until today. With the creative force of Spx that drives them forth, there is no telling where they would end up. Let’s just hope this place is a bit more colorful.

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Hat Tips:

Pitchfork, Cold Specks, Facebook, Image Credit: Flickr

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