Review : Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Music OMHEvery now and then, it’s still possible to stumble upon a new artist who is doing something quite unlike anything else out there, displaying the sort of timeless qualities that evoke the ghosts of performers past yet still delivering something fresh and original. The mysterious 24-year-old Al Spx (birth name stubbornly withheld), who records as the only marginally more catchy Cold Specks, is just such a discovery and her debut album, the intriguingly titled I Predict A Grateful Expulsion, is right up there with the best releases of the year to date.
Hailing from the obscure Canadian outpost of Etobicoke but now based in London, Cold Specks (named after a line in James Joyce’s Ulysses – but you already knew that of course) describes her music as ‘doom soul’ and in many ways, it’s an apt enough description. Her voice, a tortured, yearning rasp that sounds rather like a more restrained, melancholy Macy Gray, belies her tender years, and the subject matter of her stark yet defiant songs is certainly pretty gloomy....full text
IndependentIt's hard to pigeonhole Canadian singer Al Spx, aka Cold Specks, in the usual generic slots. She calls what she does “Doom Soul”, which almost covers the elements of soul, folk and darkling indie in the single “Blank Maps”, where hammer dulcimer and cello carry her soulful delivery of the typically quixotic sentiment “I am a goddamn believer”.
There's a bruised strength to Spx's voice, and her melodies have the stark, fatalistic tone of chain-gang moans, while her lyrics skirt the edges of meaning through evocative imagery – “God is in the gutter”; “the science of suitcases” – perhaps best summarised in her reference to “a thousand stillborn thoughts to cradle and hold”....full text
CmjThe overall feeling of the record is dark, but tracks like “Hector” and “Blank Maps” offer a bit of light. Both tracks are more upbeat than the rest of the album and offer a new side to Cold Specks. While still remaining soulful, “Hector” plays on a hi-hat dance beat, complete with haunting guitar lines and a repetitive chorus. “Blank Maps” also makes use of eerie guitar sounds; however, this time, Spx adds a catchy vocal line, as she gracefully croons, “Don’t you wait on me, I’ll shoot you down/Keep your eyes closed and ear to the ground.” The record’s highlight comes midway through with “Elephant Head.” With elegant strumming patterns and backing vocals reminiscent of a church choir, the track brings the album to its peak. It is also worth noting that this is the track from which Spx got her album’s title.
I Predict A Graceful Expulsion’s close comes in the form of the somber song “Lay Me Down.” “Father, father, don’t you fear,” she sings. “The ground is what this blood knows.” The lyrics to the song seem to revolve around death, which, Spx explained in an interview, is an obsession of hers. With that, “Lay Me Down” sends the album off on a note similar to the way it began–softly, powerfully and unlike anything else....full text
GuardianWhen mysterious, pseudonymous Canadian singing guitarist Al Spx first surfaced last year, her self-taught strangeness was as captivating as a field recording from the Deep South. Some of that strangeness survives on her debut, on the final track Lay Me Down, and in patches elsewhere. There's chilling, unspoken violence on the first two tracks and a "Rotterdam, goddamn" opening to the intriguing Holland, which might echo Nina Simone. But the arrangements here, courtesy of PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis, seek to relocate Spx in too elegant a vein, making her sound less singular and more assimilable. It is a shame....full text
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