Active Child

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Mercy Review

by James Christopher Monger

The second studio long player from golden-throated, ambient-R&B maestro Pat Grossi, aka Active Child, the Vagrant-issued Mercy is a dewy-eyed collection of late-night/early morning neo-soul ballads and chamber music-infused gospel-dream pop reveries that are as delicately breathtaking as they are torpor inducing. Invoking names like James Blake, Purity Ring, Sohn, and Antony & the Johnsons, and recorded in Brooklyn with pastoral precision by Van Rivers (Blonde Redhead, Fever Ray), the ten-track set feels longer than its 36-minute runtime, but that has little to do with the quality of the material. Grossi's angelic tenor (he did time in the esteemed Philadelphia Boys Choir), unabashedly sincere and heartfelt lyrics, and deft, yet understated harp and piano playing, pair well with Rivers' expansive, sometimes glitch-heavy beats and house flourishes, lending an air of refinement to some of the album's more propulsive moments. Still, relatively upbeat numbers like "Temptation" and "Never Far Away" are anomalies; non-life-threatening, fevered aberrations in an otherwise healthy subject who is moving through myriad stages of love/heartbreak with the usual mix of bravado and despair. That bifurcated sentiment is best laid out on prime cuts like "1999," "Too Late," "These Arms," and the luxurious title cut, all of which ooze atmosphere and vulnerability, but are denied oblivion by the grounding force of Grossi's remarkable voice.

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