Joanna Newsom is not alone in the harp-wielding alternative music world. New Jersey-born Pat Grossi is the latest to straddle that most cumbersome of instruments though on this, his debut LP, he indulges in a more lush, electronic sound than the freak-folk or pastoral music connected to the harp.
You Are All I See swerves through different styles – the work of one artist trying to find a fit, or at least enjoying a variation of approaches. Grossi is obviously experimenting with mixing similar genres to James Blake, though it’s a somewhat lazy comparison based on one or two some quite familiar-sounding tracks – ‘Playing House’ featuring How To Dress Well on co-vocals for one.
The album opens with arguably the best melding of Grossi’s talents on ‘You Are All I See’, a crescendo of harp strings, his pitch-perfect choirboy voice, tied to a soft synth and drum bedrock – on first listen it defies easy categorisation but is instant in appeal. Further into the album there are some similar and perhaps lazy Blake-isms employed like Auto-Tune and the mellow dubstep of ‘Playing House’ which takes us from the opener’s house-of-worship sound to a distinctive slow-motion club feel.
What is interesting is the mix of approaches to song building. ‘Ivy’ is like a wordless lullaby (well, it has four words) and ‘Shield & Sword’ owes as much to Jan Hammer and Enya as to any contemporary sound, but for that, it sounds gothic and atmospheric and could surely have been a contender for the much-adored Drive soundtrack, such is its mood. The album closer takes us back to the harp-based first track, with this time a darker, more orchestral approach.
What shows through on repeated listens however is a certain laziness. Mostly this manifests itself through the lyrics (the cliché-riddled, cringey ‘See Thru Eyes’ comes to mind) and much of the middle part of the album sounds derivative, when the introduction was so fresh. The slight variation in styles or approaches gives a sort of unsettled feel though there are plenty of tracks that elevate things enough to make it worthy of investigation.