Neuroplasticity is the second album from Cold Specks, aka Al Spx, and is highly anticipated after her majorly successful debut, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Her performance at the Polaris 2012 Gala made a fan out of me and I couldn’t wait to get my ears on her latest. The album opens with “A Broken Memory”, a track layered with jazzy trumpet, Spx’s distinct soulful voice and pounding drums. The song sets the tone for the rest of the album – gothic and even nightmarish.
It seems that may have been the goal, though. Spx’s lyrics explore a sense of the unknown through themes of blood, animals and the earth and here is a sense of chaos and mystery happening throughout. When Swans’ Michael Gira joins in with his unmistakable howl, the results are chilling. His voice hangs below Spx’s, adding an eerie growl to the song. His contributions are slight – he appears on “Exit Plan” and “A Season of Doubt” – but impactful, taking the entire album in a macabre direction.
The percussion also plays a big part, much larger than on I Predict, driving the record forward until they finally get pulled back on the final track, “A Season of Doubt”. My personal favourite of the collection, this one is particularly dark. The trumpet mourns while Spx and Gira repeat the vocal refrain “And we move like wolves in the bleak night, and we dance like ghosts deprived of flight.” The last two notes are delicately placed, deflating all of the energy built up in the previous 9 tracks.
Neuroplasticity succeeds in creating a mood, but doesn’t quite nail it when comes to creating a record that favours repeat spins. I liked it a lot upon first listen, enjoyed it on the second and was over it by the third. It sounded a bit like Nick Cave and Marianne Faithful receiving tragic news.
If you’re in the mood for something sinister, check this one out.