OK, right from the inception of this review I’d like to make it clear that I have little knowledge of Cosmicity’s (aka Mark Nicholas) previous work other than a passing flirtation with an occasional mp3 or audio file that I’ve stumbled across on the web. It might even be argued that I have no understanding of his sound, motivations or the historical artist development, that brought him to this particular junction in his musical career. Perhaps…but does all this really matter, I heard a few mp3’s liked what I heard and wanted to listen to more! Surely this is the way we all work when foraging for new music to fire the synapses. It’s fair to say I approached “Pure” with no bias or preconceptions and the album therefore had to stand alone on it’s own merits….no more than you would expect from any good album.
That said, immediately on reading the sleeve notes I felt as if I was being primed for what the album might bring. The words “pure” “minimal” and “arrangement” proliferate the text with a nicely articulated “flower arrangement” analogy thrown in just in case you were still in any doubt. OK, so this album is going to be a back to basics musical exploration which as Mark nicely puts it will be “free from clutter and gimmicks, strong on melody and synthesised texture”. There goes my no “preconceptions”
The arrangements as you’d expect are therefore stripped down to the essential elements only, no style over content here or big productions to disguise any inadequacies in the song writing. This is quite brave in some respects as many artists rely on production to save an otherwise weak song. The only problem is, and to use Mark’s flower arrangement analogy if you accidentally remove a vitally important flower or strip down the extraneous foliage too much, you can be left with an empty pot with no colour, which is not particularly interesting to the observer.
Running through the track list let’s look at the songs themselves in brief, “Darkness” the scene is set a basic 4/4 electronic bass and snare drum pattern with good old school analogue filters bubbling in the background. Some good breathy vocal backing in the middle section but for me this track really never gets off the ground, better is to come. “I Want You” is memorable for some great lyrics like “your like glass, but you’re only clear to me” excellent! Musically the track itself is OK but the almost spoken chorus doesn’t work for me. “Defeat”, a big bass drum and driving triggered bass give this track an immediacy and obvious visceral impact. Musically, nothing too revolutionary but the repetitious chant like chorus and chopped vocal sample that accentuates the bass drum really work to great effect making this a stand out track. Also worthy of note is the fact that “Defeat” is the first song where Mark opens his throat a little and makes me believe! My point is this, Mark too often stays safely within his vocal comfort zone which is a shame as occasionally I like to hear a vocalist “push the envelope” in the pursuit of emotional angst and drama. Obviously those of you who are fans of Cosmicity’s vocal stylings will be content with the vocal delivery that is evident on “Pure”.
Moving on to “Something” we encounter another vocal nuance that hadn’t really struck me earlier. This is a slow and sensitively delivered vocal which on more than one occasion sounds uncannily like Andy McClusky during one of his more sentimental moments. This is not intended as an unjust comparison merely a point of reference, which equally applies on the next track “Let Me In”. “Let Me In” starts with a beautifully atmospheric analogue sequence, that reoccurs throughout the song. The vocals are breathy and lush, which is absolutely right for this track. To my mind “Let Me In” is another stand out track on “Pure”. “Escapism” which is a quaint arpeggio driven instrumental neither adds nor detracts from the album but it may be a bit “too nice” for many tastes. “I Have Nothing”, is driven by a simple octave bass that works brilliantly on this vocally syncopative and harmonious track. “Perfect Shape” forces me into comparison mode again, Dream Academy meets Prefab Sprout (forgive the potentially unfamiliar English references), if you like these bands, you’ll like this track…personally it’s not for me. I have a bit of a problem with the next track “The Princess of Detroit” as I think the lyrical meter is a bit weak and despite some atmospheric sounds the song never really develops enough to sustain my interest. Similarly “Hope” leaves me a little cold with an uninteresting vocal melody and uncomfortably trite chorus. However just as I was starting to have grave doubts about where “Pure” was taking me I was rewarded with the last track “Hotel Allegro Chicago” which has a self reflective and personal lyric with a lush and layered chorus.
To summarise “Pure” is an interesting work filled with moments of beauty and wonder but ultimately I was left feeling a little disappointed and unfulfilled. Vocal delivery, which is a personal preference thing, does go some way to explain this but perhaps more importantly “Pure” is a few flowers short of that elusive perfect bouquet (…OK you’re right, guilty as charged, tenuous overuse of Mark’s flower analogy?).
Artist Link: http://www.cosmicity.com