Album Review: Nick Mulvey – Fever to the Form EP

By on Monday, 8th July 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Nick Mulvey, formerly of the 2008 Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet, last month released his second solo EP, ‘Fever to the Form’. Blurring the lines between jazz, classical, world music, and folk genres, this set of four songs reveals a wide array of musical influences, as well as a broad set of lyrical and compositional ideas. The songs hinge on minimalist grooves and the repetitive plucked rhythms of Mulvey’s acoustic guitar, but the unique harmonies and eclectic instrumentation generate surprising sonic variety.

Eponymous song ‘Fever to the Form’ (video below) is probably the most easily accessible track on the EP. It starts off sounding folky and melodic, with a gently rocking guitar figure, before a gradual instrumental build incorporates surprising dynamic contrast and more complex rhythms. I’m not entirely sure what the alliterative title phrase means, but Mulvey’s honeyed singing manages to make it convincing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds0jtuyslbI[/youtube]

‘Juramidam’ apparently makes reference to a Brazilian spiritual practice involving group singing and dancing as well as drinking a special psychoactive potion. Its lyrics describe the ritual, “I saw them drink at every vine / they told me the last was like the first / and that they came upon no wine / that tastes so good every day as thirst”, while musical effects illustrate the scene. The smooth, sensual groove and the constant pulsing rhythm are both seductive and hypnotic, like the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In another example of musical scene painting, ‘River Lea’ uses instrumental sounds very literally to invoke a sense of place and time. The constant motion in the guitar and the high, delicate flute respectively suggest rushing water and wind, while the discordant harmony in the strings implies a sense of tragedy or conflict. The drama is never fully played out in the lyrics, but the vague sense of foreboding in the line “I’ve been away so long” becomes a warning, as does “run away”, as the river continues its perpetual flow.

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and on this EP, Nick Mulvey has crafted a set of intense sonic pictures. His lyrics are vague and elusive, often lacking emotional connection, but his musical illustrations are vivid and complex, intricately detailed and viscerally engaging. Listen with your eyes closed and your imagination open.

8/10

Nick Mulvey’s debut EP ‘Fever to the Form’ is available now from Communion Records. He will be supporting Laura Marling on her tour of the UK in September.

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[…] Read Carrie’s review of his current EP ‘Fever to the Form’ here. […]

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