Three years often feels like a long wait for an artist to release new material. However, fans’ angst was somewhat eased by the sheer quality of Nick Mulvey’s previous releases. The limbo has ceased, and Unconditional is a heartfelt return to the fore from this folk virtuoso.
Mulvey made an astoundingly positive impression when he burst onto the scene with the release of EPs The Trellis (2012) and Fever to the Form (2013) which culminated in 2014’s Mercury Prize nominated First Mind. Audiences were spellbound by the flawlessly integrated layers of timbre that Mulvey’s art is lavished with. What I find most impressive about Mulvey’s songwriting is his ability to employ mind-blowingly complex guitar parts, embellished with percussive elements in uncommon time signatures whilst still maintaining a surface sound of simplicity that renders his work accessible to the mainstream.
Like many, I was introduced to this material through those tracks that enjoyed the most notable mainstream success – namely, the widely recognised Cucurucu. The swooning vocals superimposed above the dainty strum of a ukulele and an acoustic guitar was a pleasantly calming listen, however, in addition to this, Cucurucu maintained a provocative pace that ensured an element of excitement about the music. I was well and truly hooked. First Mind quickly became one of the albums in my library that I afforded the most attention to – listening to it over time and time again – this behaviour remains today.
When the release of Unconditional was released through social media, it felt as though a weight of uncertainty was lifted. I was sceptical as to whether we would ever get a follow up to First Mind due to the fact that Mulvey’s presence had been, previously, relatively subdued in the sense that he rarely eluded to the possibility of new material. Recognising the dedication of his fans, Mulvey declared: ‘To those of you who’ve kept listening to First Mind all this time- thank you!!!!! It gives me huge pleasure to bring you something new.’
Unconditional is trademark Nick Mulvey. Immediately we hear the innovative cohesion between the less-Western influences that surely came from Mulvey’s studies of art and music in Cuba in the tuneful chant that is lurking just behind the foreground if this track. These sounds are subsequently complimented by the modern trendiness of this singer’s soulfully soothing vocals – again, it is a familiar voice that allows a widespread audience to find enjoyment through base accessibility in Mulvey’s work.
The track sounds as though it could have been plucked straight out of Mulvey’s previous work. This notion is potentially problematic for some, it is possible to argue that after three years of listening to First Mind fans would be yearning for something of a separate ilk – perhaps a new, evolved sound. At face-value, this is not the case with Unconditional, it is hard to discern any element of the track that is a development on Mulvey’s work. That being said, for some, this may not be an issue at all – they are just thankful that the artist is back.
The music is certainly evocative – for me, I hear the warmth that is synonymous with the phenomenon that is love. Perhaps this is where the title of the song originates. Of course, interpretation is just that – intrinsically subjective. I firmly urge anyone who appreciates the art of music to explore Nick Mulvey’s catalogue, I assure that you won’t regret it.