Perhaps the first hint as to the contents of Nick Mulvey’s latest album, Wake Up Now, is hidden amongst the layers of its striking artwork. Endless spiralling patterns colliding and overlapping within a kaleidoscope of colour, the markings that adorn Wake Up Now’s cover hint at infinite possibilities and variables, suspended majestically in perfect symmetry. As such, Mulvey’s latest outing is as visually stunning as it is orally, with every intricate element fleshed out in such glorious detail that you begin to envision what follows not as notes on a page, but as undiscovered colours on a quite remarkable spectrum.
It’s this inherent idea of sensory balance that characterises Wake Up Now from the moment ‘Unconditional’ fades into life with its dazzling mixture of Spanish guitar, djembe rhythms and non-lexical backing vocables. Stepping beyond the enviable standards he set in his memorable debut, First Mind, Mulvey saturates Wake Up Now with worldly elements in what feels like a natural and well-realised evolution. Covering the globe in 51 minutes, bassy syncopated drum beats, sitar-inspired guitar riffs, eerily harmonic vocal chants, and rupturing tribal horns leave you with the distinct feeling that you have shifted continent eleven times; that the foundations of your home are no longer so secure.
But over all of the incredible excess instrumentation, Mulvey’s distinctly raspy guitar sound throbs with an irrepressible heart. There’s a fragility here too, a hushed serenity that lends itself to honest and pure articulations rather than anything hyper-constructed or artificial. This delicacy allows Mulvey’s lyrics an authenticity that is hard to ignore, as he speaks eloquently on issues of environmental destruction, the pressures of fatherhood, and the ongoing impacts of the refugee crisis- with the proceeds of his single ‘Myela’ going to Help Refugees UK. Alongside these words is the female vocalist that shadows Mulvey’s every move. Operating wonderfully in beautiful call and response sections, this phantom voice evokes an even deeper layer of meaning from the words and rhythms that will move you both physically and emotionally.
Each song is like revisiting an old notebook you wrote a lifetime ago, reminding yourself of a time you somehow allowed yourself to forget. None so much as ‘In Your Hands’, a song which seems to sit you down in your own private cinema and play your life in reverse, dreamily carrying you through every first encounter, awkward kiss, win, loss, and sacrifice until you realise how every one of those moments has brought you to this exact point. And although each song tells its own story, they all seem connected, an endless stream of paths crossing at un-signposted intersections, to the extent that you can almost see your previous-self passing you by on roads you have already walked, are walking, and will continue to walk down.
As the blissful soundscape of Wake Up Now diminishes, it’s hard to tell whether you have obliged its creator and awoken to a newly-altered world, or if you have drifted off to sleep. But it doesn’t matter; as Mulvey tells us- “So many never know the difference / Come step in the dark with me”. That darkness in between sleep and reality, that sensation of having one toe dipped in the light of a new day and another toe resolutely residing in the clutches of slumber, that overwhelming feeling of unknowing at dawn is where Wake Up Now situates itself, and where a part of you will always belong.
Photo Credit: port-magazine.com / Ross Trevail