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Nick Mulvey - Wake Up Now (Album Review)

Friday, 08 September 2017 Written by Helen Payne

After leaving Portico Quartet, Nick Mulvey quickly set out the parameters for a successful solo run. His debut, ‘First Mind’, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2014, six years after his old band made the shortlist with ‘Knee-Deep in the North Sea’.

The inspirations behind his solo bow - rhythms derived from North African music, minimalist repetition reminiscent of Philip Glass, and the tender songwriting of Paul Simon - are all still evident on ‘Wake Up Now’, its follow up. But Mulvey manages to build on and improve them by taking more inspiration from exploring to broaden his experience of the world, alongside wisdom obtained during time spent in Cuba and his studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

The first two tracks, Unconditional and Transform Your Game, immediately bring a sunny atmosphere to the record, while the colourful, beautiful Remembering and In Your Hands conjure images of dappled light through palm trees. Here Mulvey is discovering the beat away from home with tentative footsteps.

Myela, a single released back in June, contrasts a relaxed R&B groove with words that respond to the ongoing refugee crisis. "God only knows the pain you feel, leaving your country looking for a home,” Mulvey sings. The song has a narrative quality to it, driving at ideas of community and the place of an individual in the wider world, but it’s a little overt.

The subtleties of Mulvey’s earlier work, where he was more focused on imagery and metaphors, are lost in this undisguised discussion. Mountain To Move, another single, also feels like it needs something else. It’s too similar to the last track, Remembering, and by this point Mulvey almost needs a volta to work around. He sings the album’s title, telling us to “wake up now” as he has done in more deft ways across the last six songs.

Lullaby’s delicate frame is therefore a necessary change of pace two thirds in. The backing vocals take prominence over Mulvey’s and that decision perhaps comments on how other voices can be more important than an individual’s. Who are we to decide if one person is more important than another?

In Your Hands is another lovable track - the album is full of them - with imagery of pale light, aching hearts, and honey bees. It’s almost as if we’re being directed towards one realisation: why are we fighting and going to war with each other when we have honey and sweetness and love?

That sense of sunshine and self-imposed shade pervades the album. For Mulvey, our persistent political squabbling is akin to sitting in the dark. While not a huge departure from ‘First Mind’, Mulvey experiments throughout 'Wake Up Now', stretching his limbs and investigating sounds of the world both musically and lyrically. He’s part of the community, and so are we.

Nick Mulvey Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed September 27 2017 - BELFAST Empire Music Hall
Thu September 28 2017 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Sun October 01 2017 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Mon October 02 2017 - EXETER Lemon Grove
Tue October 03 2017 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed October 04 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Fri October 06 2017 - SHEFFIELD Leadmill
Sat October 07 2017 - LEEDS Church
Mon October 09 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Tue October 10 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Wylam Brewery
Wed October 11 2017 - EDINBURGH Liquid Room
Thu October 12 2017 - GLASGOW O2 ABC
Sat October 14 2017 - CARDIFF Cardiff University Students Union
Sun October 15 2017 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Mon October 16 2017 - CAMBRIDGE Junction 1
Tue October 17 2017 - LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Thu October 19 2017 - BEXHILL ON SEA De La Warr Pavilion

Click here to compare & buy Nick Mulvey Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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