Words by James Attwood
Following the success of his Mercury nominated 2015 debut, First Mind – the album that spawned his breakthrough track ‘Cucurucu’ and earned him support slots with the likes of London Grammar, Nick Mulvey is back with a second offering of world music tinged indie-folk masterpieces.
Entitled Wake Up Now, the album, which is set for release on the 8th September 2017 through Fiction Records, is a reflection upon the current world that we live in – a world that is changing by the day. Here Mulvey is inspired by real world issues such as the refugee crisis and his recent fatherhood, which sit at the core of the album and informed the choice to comment on the world which his newborn son will be part of.
With this fresh inspiration and desire to voice these issues within song, Mulvey set about enlisting the help of a small group of individuals that included his close friends and band mates, producer Ethan Johns, alongside Bowie’s Blackstar engineer Kevin Killen. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios, Wake Up Now further featured writing sessions with Brian Eno before being sent for finishing touches at friend and long time collaborator Dan Carey’s studio in London.
Initial single ‘Unconditional’ opens up the album. Driven by strummed flamenco Guitars, offbeat rhythms and subtle flourishes of electronics, the track is typically Nick Mulvey and picks up exactly where First Mind left off with it’s simple and infectious chorus. I could imagine that the track would be every bit as captivating as an instrumental, with its tribal harmonies and horn hooks.
‘Transform Your Game (We Remain)’, takes on a similar instrumental texture to ‘Unconditional’, with Mulvey‘s trademark Spanish guitars, along with a bass groove and layered rhythmic parts. What’s interesting is the attention Mulvey pays toward rhythm within his music, layering up drums with bongos and other instruments in a nod to his world music influence. The chorus captures the community between Mulvey and his band perfectly, a carnival of backing voices, horns and multiple rhythmic elements.
‘Imogen’ sees Nick Mulvey take the listener away to a darker place, more reflective place than the two previous tracks and is indicative of the album’s inspiration, accentuated by weeping violins and a chorus of gospel backing vocals that sing the chorus, “It ain’t over now”.
Recent release ‘Myela’ is a blend of organic and electronic elements and sees Mulvey emphasize with and tell stories of the refugees that the track is inspired by. Frantic flurries of synthesizer resemble the panic of those he sings about, “please help me find a way to stay and give a future to the child I, carry inside”. He fully immerses himself within the culture of the refugees, using eastern melody and instrumentation to create the atmosphere of their motherland before closing the track with a celebratory chorus of “I am your neighbor, you are my neighbor”, showing his unity with those he sings about.
Following track ‘We Are Never Apart’, sees Mulvey continue to serenade the character of Myela, “Oh Myela my love, can you hear, can you still hear the sirens moan, calling you home again?”. ‘We Are Never Apart’ sees Mulvey explore the issue of fracking on the Dakota Oil pipeline, a decision made by our very own government.
‘Remembering’ however rekindles the atmosphere of the initial two tracks, with Nick Mulvey‘s trademark vibrant, tribal rhythms that create images of the lands that they are inspired by. The chorus is as simple as the title insinuates, as is the case for the majority of the album, leaving room for the musicianship of Mulvey to shine through.
It is apparent by the time we hear seventh track ‘Mountain to Move’ the tone of the album, as is the case for next track ‘When the Body is Gone’. By this point I was searching for something that I hadn’t already heard on the album. Both are still beautiful, downbeat songs filled with vocal melody and beauty, as well as well thought out instrumentation.
‘Lullaby’ is a short, nifty outtake of ‘Unconditional’, one that features the pre-chorus melody and an angelic scat like vocal – linking ‘When the Body is Gone’ with the album’s penultimate track, ‘In Your Hands’. The track is a comfortable listen, one that I would have preferred earlier in the album. With its Ben Howard style instrumentation, the track sees Mulvey and a female vocal sing in call and response fashion to one another. I would definitely deem this as one of the stronger album tracks, effective in bringing the journey of the album to a close.
Album closer ‘Infinite Trees’ is mood music and is centered around the raw connection between Nick Mulvey and his skillful guitar ability, as well as the connection he is able to make vocally with other individuals within his close knit band.
As a new listener to Nick Mulvey, I approached this album with fresh ears and very much enjoyed ‘Unconditional’ as well as the several initial tracks that followed it. However, once well into the album I began to find it predictable, having heard much of the instrumentation already.
Perhaps this was the choice of track listing, or the fact that there seemed to be two voices to the album – one extremely downbeat, the other it’s polar opposite, upbeat, vibrant and busy, containing very little tracks that fell in between such as ‘Unconditional’.
‘Unconditional’ – Nick Mulvey
Nick Mulvey releases Wake Up Now on 8th September, out via Fiction Records. For more on Nick Mulvey, including online purchase points, visit www.nickmulvey.com