Although this is his debut solo album, Nick Mulvey is a Mercury Prize nominated artist as a founding member of the jazz collective, Portico Quartet, and this would explain why this debut album is so accomplished on so many levels. He is a man who obviously knows how to write attention grabbing music.
At first, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to a Ben Howard record, as First Mind is very reminiscent of his style. This would go a long way to explain why Mulvey supported him at the back end of last year, with Howard being a big fan and vice versa.
This first impression, however, is not a lasting one, with Mulvey’s own beautiful, intricate guitar style coming to the fore. There are many artists that come to mind as the album plays out: the melodic ukulele magic of Beirut (intro to ‘Fever to the form’) and ‘Juramidam’ throws up memories of the fantastically downbeat Beta Band.
It is amazing to think that this chap only first picked up a guitar at the age of 17, having previously taught himself to play the drums and that natural rhythm is so evident in his playing, with so many of the songs being driven by his impressive guitar chops. The rhythms are bouncy and, at times, hypnotic: His time spent in Cuba learning his trade have more than paid off and the culture out there has certainly rubbed off on his playing style; what is his love of intricately built, somewhat flamenco style, guitar riffs.
His biggest hit to date ‘Cucurucu’ is just that: a bona fide hit. The label must have been rubbing their hands with glee when he played them that tune. With its lovely story, which is an interpretation of the DH Lawrence poem, ‘Piano’, you can’t help tapping your foot before the ridiculously catchy Hammond offbeat stabs come in, taking it to another level. It paints pictures of sitting around a bonfire on the beach with your friends and a bottle of Jack, or indeed being on the back streets of Cuba participating in a local street party.
With its forays into musical interludes (‘Venus’) and its subtle synths and strings here and there, it feels like Mulvey has created a musical insight into the workings of his mind. It is, at times, dreamy; his voice being used to great effect as an extra instrument rather than a stand out “lead vocal”, which his voice is not. What it is is heartfelt, warm and touching, and he has an uncanny knack of drawing you into his world.
First Mind is undoubtedly an album that would be categorized under the genre of singer/songwriter but it is so much more. It is crafted around his undoubted guitar skills and there is a spine through the album that is fused with folk influences but every now and then you’ll find a slipped disc or a trapped nerve that makes you sit up and think “what is going on here then?” Songs evolve and envelop you with aplomb and you can’t help but sit and listen and then listen again only to hear little things that you missed the first time and second time and third time. Mesmerising.