Well, yet another superb find on the Mahogany Sessions (whose Youtube channel I highly recommend subscribing to). When I stumbled across Nick Mulvey’s ‘Fever to the Form’, it was one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks moments. This wasn’t just another acoustic strummer, but an intriguing song which struck me as having a nugget of truth in it which I’m still unable to quite put my finger on. But it’s that quality which has characterised the work of some of the great songwriters and so I never ignore that gut feeling. His music blends folk and atmospheric influences, also informed by his music studies in Havana, Cuba and his travels as a former member of the Mercury Award nominated Portico Quartet. It is these qualities which have probably garnered him such illustrious support slots with Laura Mvula and with Laura Marling on her upcoming autumn tour.
The Fever to the Form EP itself is a diverse treat in a small package. The lead single, ‘Fever to the Form’ that gives the EP its title centres around Mulvey’s restrained vocals and compelling guitar strumming. However, this is only the surface of the song as tasteful synths in the background complement his playing. They are by no means intrusive, but rather enhance the air of wonder and melancholy the song evokes. This atmosphere is still maintained when the song later introduces drums and strings which makes the track soar with Mulvey’s harmonised vocals. Meanwhile, ‘House of Saint Give Me’ is a brooding ballad which contemplates family ties, conjuring images of dusty old town streets and open plains of the Mediterranean.
The latter half of the EP is a more experimental affair, putting paid to any suspicions that Mulvey has nothing new to offer. ‘Juramidam’ is a catchy mixture of polyrhythmic guitar and eery background instrumentation. Creeping synths and humming create tension while Mulvey’s guitar keeps the song bouncing along. ‘River Lea’ meanwhile features a guitar figure similar to Nick Drake’s ‘Know’, while African rhythms weave into the fore and then recede. Eventually the vocals fade and give way to reed melodies and a cello straight out of Beth Orton’s ‘She Cries Your Name’. Throughout the EP the production is tasteful and balanced, allowing Mulvey’s innate talent to shine through. I realise production is a boring and very nerdy thing to mention, but when dealing with restrained and understated songs such as these it’s so easy for them to get submerged by unnecessary layers of production. As it stands, the songs have space to breathe and Mulvey’s vocals, though not attention grabbing, sound melodic and sincere.
Mulvey should be touring the festival circuit over the coming months before embarking on Laura Marling’s tour. If you get the chance to check him out, I’d strongly recommend it as from live footage I’ve seen it looks like the kind of memorable show which will hush those gig-goers that won’t shut up and will stick in your bones for days to come.
Fever to the Form is available now through Fiction Records.