It’s hard not to be suspicious when an artist arrives on the scene with grand claims to have brought with them their own, unique genre. It all smacks a little too much of record company heads up meetings or the time when an NME journalist allegedly invented the New Wave Of New Wave for a bet. So here comes Cold Specks, the spearhead of the “doom soul” movement – although we’d be pushed to name you any of those bringing up the rear. Born in Toronto, based in London, you feel that Al Spx needs a pretty impressive debut album in her to match the hype.
The thing is, for half of I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, she pretty much pulls it off. However contrived the doom soul tag seems, there’s no denying that Spx has the second half in droves. Her voice is amazing, a raw instrument in its own right. First track ‘The Mark’ absolutely smoulders with brooding intensity, all the better for the stripped down delivery. As ‘Heavy Hands’ and ‘Winter Solstice’ add more elements it becomes clear that the record is able to strike a neat balance between the raw and the accessible – this is neither a lo-fi fest a la Willis Earl Beal or the ultra polished soul of so many.
Such development continues as the record goes on, with each track adding to the last. It peaks with the beautiful ‘Holland’ and its choral climax, leaving a genuine lump in the throat. With half the record left, you wonder just where she can go from here. The answer, unfortunately, is nowhere. The rest of the album isn’t bad by any means, it’s just that it offers no surprises, no highlights, no show stoppers. The heavy lifting has already been done and the second half simply glides to a hault – fine in itself but a definite disappointment given what has gone before. Maybe Cold Specks ventured forth before she was quite ready. Maybe someone should have laid out the record a little better, spreading the gold more evenly. Or maybe we just got greedy, expecting a classic from an artist still taking her first steps. Whatever the reason, this is a debut that starts with a quiet bang but ends with a graceful whimper.