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Cold Specks brings Change, Innovation and Creativity

Montreal's Cold Specks, aka Al Spx, shows an evolving artist who refused to stand still.

By Dan McPeake

Given the intricacies of her first album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, one would expect Cold Specks to weave complex answers to an interviewer. Yet, she takes a more introspective approach; being a woman of relatively few words. She is also quite specific and detailed in answers, packing much information into just a couple of sentences.

Neuroplasticity, her sophmore effort, was written in cottage in Somerset, just outside Glastonbury, England, and was finished closer to home in Montreal. While the name is scientific in nature and has to do with brain plasticity, malleability and changes in neural pathways and synapses, Cold Specks decided on the title to describe a “creative re-wiring”.  Born all in the dark wormy earth, cold specks of fire, evil, lights shining in the darkness “I thought it would imply an aesthetic change” she states. And it does. While Graceful Expulsion bordered on experimental, her follow up is decidedly more pop-sounding (though the post-millennial pop 2.0 vibe, not the mid-late 90’s artificially created singers who were envy of 12 year olds everywhere).

For some artists, the shift in sound is a gradual, drawn-out process. For Cold Specks, it was very conscious as she got “very bored” of playing the same songs over and over and just wanted a different sound. Indeed her single “Bodies at Bay” starts off with a very pronounced drum kick and a much richer instrumentation. This is complimented in the music video, which features a series of melding colours, film techniques and a variety of single colour backdrops, all while not stealing focus from Cold Specks.


Her other single “Absisto” is a fair bit slower with a softer drum kick and moodier guitar. The video, is structured like a film and is grittier in tone. The darker theme of the song is compounded by the setting of a forest, with its dark greens, featuring a weird, somewhat undead creature, and by having many of its characters appear in a trance-like state.  Cold Specks herself appears as a sort of modern-day Cleopatra except she has zombie eyes.

Cold Specks doesn’t stop there though. She appears twice on Moby’s 2013 album Innocents and once each on The SwansTo Be Kind and Ambrose Akinmusire’s The Imagined Savior is Easier to Paint. Both Akinsmusire – playing trumpet – and Swans’ vocalist Michael Gira appear on Neuroplasticity as well.  But perhaps her biggest recent claim to fame was playing at the 70th birthday party of one Joni Mitchell.

Brian Blaise, who was the musical director for the celebration, heard and liked Cold Specks’ music and simply invited her to come play. Cold Specks reflects on the experience by saying “ It was a very experience. It’s a memory that I’ll probably hold onto for the rest of my life”. Not many twentysomethings can say that.

Cold Specks is a rare breed of singer. She is innovative, a risk taker, direct and bold. She even got her stage name from a passage in Ulysses by James Joyce – “Born all in the dark wormy earth, cold specks of fire, evil, lights shining in the darkness”. Clearly, the neuroplasticity of her brain functions at maximum speed. Neuroplasticity is a wonderful new take on a music style that can get stale, but lately has seen a lot of innovation. I Predict Another Polaris Nomination.

Neuroplasticity was released on August 26, 2014 on Arts & Crafts in Canada, and Mute Records in the rest of the world.

Dan McPeake's radio show, Endeavours, airs Mondays on CJSF 90.1fm Burnaby and the web at cjsf.ca. It also airs on CHSR 97.9 in a one week delay.
You can also listen on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/293550751031/

You can follow him on twitter @EndeavoursRadio

 
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