Concert Review: Cold Specks @ CBC First Play Live

Cold Specks
Photo by Steve Gullick

Since 2011, Cold Specks has made her mark on the Toronto music scene like a wildflower among chaos. After releasing her first album “I Predict A Graceful Expulsion”, some describe her music in the realm of “doom soul”, but what one hears upon listening to “Absisto”, “A Formal Invitation”, and “Elephant Head” is not quite the apocalyptic alarm, but instead, a siren call to awareness, a slow descent into consciousness after having been detached for a while. The continuity and breadth of sounds from her new album “Neuroplasticity” invokes the desire to disassemble for a moment – it is a tender flash of stream-of-consciousness – and an invitation to return to the dark world.

Cold Specks, under the name of Al Spx, performed “Neuroplasticity” with her musicians exclusively at Studio 211 for CBC First Play Live. Just under fifty lucky fans gathered in a circle around an intimate “rehearsal-space” setting for what could only be described as a gift.

She was relaxed, and joyful, made light conversation with us, and even broke out into a Backstreet Boys sing-along in-between takes that ensured us that she is a twenty-something just like the rest of us. Her eloquent maturity, and mastery of sound tells us otherwise, and for the rest of her set, those of us privileged to be in the room were silent until the last note of each song was played.

She described to us that she formed the album while holed up in a cottage in the Northern UK for three months in the wintertime – that’s where most of the “doom” comes from, art imitates life at its finest (and darkest) moments. The songs are filled with rich instrumentation and while her voice is still central to the concept of the album, the trumpet soloist made me weak in the knees. Spx uses long, drawn out, muted horns in her compositions that adds such a layered spectrum of color to what evolves into velvety guitar solos, which later, near the end of the album, resolves into zero accompaniment on certain tracks as “A Season of Doubt” where she repeats words that leave a watermark on our conscience.

Nominated on the short-list for the Polaris Prize for her early work, there is no doubt that Arts&Crafts will see the success of Neuroplasticity, and Cold Specks will be a performer that nobody will want to miss in the years to come.

Neuroplasticity will be released on August 26th through Arts & Crafts.

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Review by Stefanie Romano | @stefaloves

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