Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cold Specks : "Neuroplasticity"

Interesting hearing a singer that Siouxsie would admire rather than one trying to emulate her. This Canadian singer , whose name is Al Spx  belts out odes to  New Orleans Southern Gothic  feel rather than the witchy cackle of a Diamanda Galas, but the album is dark enough so that when Micheal Gira of the Swans shows up it doesn't feel out of place. She is no stranger to working with Gira as she contributed vocals to the song "Bring the Song" on "To Be Kind.

It kicks off with what prove to be one of my favorites "A Broken Memory", sort of a funeral in the Garden District feel , but despite even the pounding interlude in the middle of the sax solo in "Old Knives" I think it might be wishful thinking to call her "doom soul". She is darker than Lana Del Ray musically, perhaps not lyrically and no where near the type of oppressive emotional climate of Chelsea Wolfe.

"Bodies at Bay" has more of an indie rock feel, the guitar tone is a cool post- rock ring to it. The vocals might be poppy perhaps if they were set against a different landscape. Despite the pounding interlude in the middle of the sax solo in "Old Knives" I think it might be wishful thinking to call her "doom soul". The indie pop flirtation does come closer to Gira's other friend St. Vincent on "A Quiet Chill", which even with its drumming that has a "Running Up That Hill" type build doesn't hook me as much as the first three songs.The ghostly backing vocals oohing behind her giving it the most atmosphere,

Despite it's indie rock radio crooner intro "Exit Plan" does darken up enough for Gira to come in and layer his vocals behind her, then it takes a more radio rock feel after that. It it a much better use of his voice than when he appears later in the album. "Let Loose the Dogs" pits her soulful voice against a minimalist electronic piece that is colder than her voice , until it goes in a more Gary Numan direction in the chorus.

The Lana Del Ray comparison's carry more weight on "Living Signs". She employs harmonies differently than Ray , but approaches things when taking a more straight forward path in a similar relaxed disposition. There are still some surreal flourishes , but this song and many others on here turned out to not be as experimental as the opening track led me to believe. So the fact she challenges your preconceived notions of her from song to song, is certainly a positive quality for any artist. It does darken slightly as shadows creep from the corners of  " A Formal Invitation". Her choice of melodies even strays from the more soulful elements that despite the ever shifting dreamscape of sounds behind her seems to be the trademark of her sound.

The sax intro to "A Season of Doubt" could be on a David Lynch soundtrack. Gira's voice takes a low croaking harmony under Spx's. The song is otherwise pretty minimal. She isn't quiet goth, though I suppose some might consider Concrete Blonde goth, and for me aside from the vampire song, they are just another alternative band from the 90's . I would not lump Cold Specks in with the other riders on the  Amy Winehouse bandwagon, as she is genuine with what she does and she does it well. I think the expectations that come with her Swans associations colored the first few listens. I will give this one a 9 , now that I know what she's about.

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