opinion by BENJI TAYLOR
Active Child’s 2011 album You Are All I See was a fantastic debut. Bright and beautiful, its densely produced soundscapes weren’t instantly accessible or readily penetrable. They required patience on behalf of the listener, but the sonic textures from which they were crafted revealed their intricate beauty over time, like light reflected through glass suddenly dappling a stone surface with a myriad glorious colors.
There has never been any denying singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Pat Grossi’s talent, but the most notable feature of Rapor in comparison to his previous work is that it’s more instantly accessible, while remaining as textured and nuanced as the tracks that littered his debut LP. Fittingly, given that it was the cover of his track “Hanging On” by Ellie Goulding that brought Active Child to wider attention, Miss Goulding makes a guest appearance here on track four “Silhouette”, as does rising r&b singer Mikky Ekko, on second track “Subtle”.
Thematically the six tracks deal with the desolation and torment arising from heartache and lost love, most exemplified by the key lyric on “Calling In The Name of Love” – “It took three whole years to fall apart, and another ten years to mend our hearts…” The tracks seem to loosely follow a narrative arc that chronicles – the break-up (“She Cut Me”), the heartache that that comes when lovers grow intro strangers (“Subtle”), and the potential chance for love’s redemption (“Evening Ceremony”).
Spectacular opening semi-instrumental “She Cut Me” (there are choral yelps and yowls but no lyrics as such) is a frosty soundscape that’s daubed from a palette that’s at times as pale as mountain snow, and driven by an aesthetic revolving around building tension and release, which is fitting for a break-up song. Elsewhere, “Subtle” is rooted in the eighties – the drumbeat, the melody, and the production .
The showstopper is track four – the gorgeous gradually escalating “Silhouette”- which sees Grossi’s yearning wraithlike vocals dissolve and melt into those of Goulding amidst a sea of shimmering and swirling synthesised effects, as its subtly swelling layers of sound echo the emotions of star-crossed lovers caught in the eye of a storm of their own creation.
Rapor is an absorbing and accomplished 80’s sheened synth-pop EP infused with heartache and imagination. While it’s sometimes euphoric, the elation is laced through with an undercurrent of melancholy. Alas, it’s not the full-length follow-up that Active Child fans are desperately waiting for, but it’s a worthy stopgap. [B]