The debut album from former Portico Quartet percussionist and Hang player Nick Mulvey is a worldly affair that gives the impression of a musician far more established and further on in his career than the Cambridge-born artist. This may be due to his involvement in the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet, or the trickle of releases that have appeared since his nomination to the BBC Sound of 2014 long list, but it is most likely down to the Ethnomusicology degree he obtained at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the years he spent immersing himself in the musical cultures of Brazil, Cuba, and Morocco. This wealth of experience and breadth of learning is transitioned here into dense and playful guitar work and absorbing, innovative rhythms. What is obvious throughout First Mind is the accessible nature of Mulvey's folk-influenced style. There are moments that feel José Gonzalez-esque, and others that aren't a million miles from the chart-topping sound of Ben Howard, while his use of Olive's "You're Not Alone" chorus on "Nitrous" is an indicator of the pop sensibilities that run alongside his cultured guitar work. Some tracks here have been collected from previously released EPs and singles, and the likes of "April," "Venus," and "Fever to the Form" are all accounted for, but slot in seamlessly next to his newer material, while the version of "Juramidam" takes on a throbbing, bluesy sound. In his most expressive moments, Mulvey channels the intricate fretwork of Nick Drake, while the minimal arrangements that dominate the album swell to a brief moment of euphoria as "Meet Me There" slowly rises to a violin-led climax. The folk singer/songwriter side of Mulvey is the one that is shown for most of the record, while his extensive influences flit in and out of each song, leaving their mark in the percussion, melody, and arrangement, but never taking center stage in his impressive repertoire.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Kerr