Review: Active Child

June 1, 2015

How does one describe Mercy? Think crystal sculptures chiming with the pitter patter of rain, a vast crystalline xylophone danced upon by a choir of bare-footed angels, or perhaps, a wild chase through an echoing maze of glass.

Mercy is many things. It is delicate, but not flimsy. It is both faint and strong, subtle and audacious. It is undoubtedly, Active Child at his best.

As Grossi’s tender voice hovers over shatters of sharp, electronic production, one realises that this is not ambient, dream pop, but much more. There is a personal and emotional heaviness that lilts moody and dark throughout the whole album. Grossi’s idiosyncratic balladry and songcraft land him somewhere on the outer periphery of pop music.

With all the electronic artifice and brightly layered sounds, sometimes Mercy feels like the glitchy and witchy R&B-pop of Grimes, MO, Purity Ring and co. Other times it feels like it is shadowing the dulcet neo-soul of How to Dress Well, James Blake and Sampha (to name a few). The point is that Grossi, being a talented, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, is able to bounce seamlessly between genres.

The album’s second song, These Arms, begins open and diffuse with Grossi’s fragile voice. Dreamy synths roll gently in the background as Grossi’s hands glide ambidextrously across the piano and harp. At the end, everything rises into this cooing crescendo, blurring the line between the instrumental and artificial whilst maintaining the fidelity of both.

The title track, Mercy, is sultry in its neat percussive groove and synthetic gloss. Broken and distorted vocal dubs softly wail under Grossi as he sings, “Your love guides me back to you”. The following song (more of an interim), Midnight Swim, with its high-pitched harp, climbing piano and choral howl is a beautiful example Grossi’s skill for sonic balance. It is like witnessing a mountain shower cast its cerulean cloak in the moonlight.

Mercy’s final song, Too Late, is an aching ending. Grossi samples and then builds his multi-octave voice into these hymnal harmonies as he warbles, “maybe its too late for us”. His heavy hands land leaden on the keys, giving the melody it’s painful accentuations. It is all very touching.

Do not let it be too late for you. Listen to this album.

Listen – Active Child – Never Far Away