Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Cold Specks – The Lexington, London 11/06/14

12 June 2014, 14:41 | Written by Russell Warfield

It’s only about three songs into the set before Al Spx – driving force of Cold Specks – pretty much disowns her debut record. She just doesn’t like playing many of those old ones anymore. And the last time I saw Cold Specks live, she said much the same thing. That was a year ago. Only now is she on the cusp of releasing a follow up to her rapturous debut I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, and tonight’s set feels the thrill of new material, breathing a new fire into Spx’ performance.

At least two thirds of the set is devoted to material from her impending Neuroplasticity LP. The songs are fierce and brutal. The arrangements of the older songs flowed on subtle build and release, building up tension by easing subtle whispers of horn and percussion around the margins, almost imperceptibly. On these songs, the instruments aren’t as polite as all that. They kick the doors down, blasting their way into the songs, building the textures to towering infernos.

Spx stalks between two microphones – one untreated, the other with a touch of distortion, wearing a golden mask across the top half of her face. It’s hard to judge whether all of this marks a flamboyant leap in confidence, or a retreat into further anonymity. Her new vocal menace oozes bravado, but is the fuzz just another mask to hide behind? Her macabre stage patter would make you think the latter. My personal highlight has to be: “Knock knock” [crowd: “who’s there?”] “Who’s dead inside? Me”.

Interestingly, she plays most of the old material at her most stripped back – just her and a guitar, and even no mask in the encore. While the thrill of the smash cuts in tempo and textures in the new songs is invigorating, there’s something uniquely arresting about the more organic dynamics to Spx in solo performance. Songs like “Blank Maps” uncurl like a thought; Spx speeding up, opening up her voice, softening her reverent arpeggios, ever bar or two. Each repetition of the chorus is different. For someone who doesn’t like playing these old songs, she commands them with utter control.

Whether she’s stripped right back or at the centre of her stormiest textures, Spx’ voice always soars across the room with force and clarity. She’s soulful and sombre, and owns both modes of delivery effortlessly. Cold Specks’ I Predict A Graceful Expulsion was a revelation of a debut LP; loaded with detailed worldliness and subtle musicianship. Based on tonight’s performance, not only is her upcoming album likely to replicate and expand on their successes, but their command over their own material will only continue to strengthen.

  • Photo by Steve Gullick
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