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Cold Specks - Neuroplasticity


Release date: 25 August 2014
19 August 2014, 11:30 Written by Luke Cartledge
“Doom soul” is a pretty ridiculous name for a genre, yet this is the term with which Cold Specks have been stuck since the release of their debut, I Predict a Graceful Explosion, in 2011. That album was a sparse, tender collection where every musical element was clearly and carefully defined, and “doom soul” was too ham-fisted a genre tag to even describe a sound as (superficially) simple as on that record. With Neuroplasticity, their fuller, lusher second outing, it is time to drop that ill-fitting ascription entirely.

Much has been made of Al Spx’s voice, the singer-songwriter around whom Cold Specks is centred, and rightly so. She sings with the kind of graceful power that is practically unheard-of in modern alternative music, managing to evoke the spirit of the soul greats while retaining a certain restrained passion that is instantly identifiable as her own. This is exhibited excellently all over Neuroplasticity, but it is particularly spine-tingling on glowering lead single “Absisto” and gothic opener, “A Broken Memory”.

With such a formidable vocalist at their disposal, you could forgive the instrumentalists who constitute the rest of Cold Specks to take a back seat and simply provide a foundation for Spx’s melodies. Happily, they have a little more ambition than this. The key is in the details – the Radiohead-esque movement of the rhythm section on “Living Signs” and “A Formal Invitation”, the delicate guitar arpeggios on “Bodies at Bay”, the swooning pedal-steel on “Old Knives”. Everywhere the listener turns on this album there is something else to be found, another subtle motif, another dab or colour. When combined with the inescapably affecting vocal and accomplished songwriting style of Spx, this creates a record that manages to reveal its treasures over multiple listens without ever sacrificing immediate appeal.

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