In our interview with Oxford-based soloist Mosa, he explained that the title of his debut album ‘Ruminations and Adaptations’ came from his overthinking nature, and I feel that this bleeds into the record in a really positive manner. His blend of sometimes semi-jarring electronics with an often faultless vocal performance whip up brilliant tracks; my personal standout being ‘Empty Vessel’. And when he tends to a more emotional direction, you feel a purpose with which he is attacking each individual track. On occasion Mosa perhaps overcomplicates and overcompensates, which can lead to a somewhat confusing and misdirected listen.
At others, there’s not quite enough to latch onto, such as the album opener ‘Shut Off Shut Down’. The balancing act therefore could perhaps be the main point of focus for any more successful future releases. But despite the odd track here and there not quite sitting with me, I came out of the overall listening experience on the positive side of the fulcrum, and I see an exciting journey ahead for David Ashbourne’s return to local music.
I’m going to begin with the most overwhelming positive on the whole record, that second track ‘Empty Vessel’. Falling somewhere in the midst Radiohead’s ‘Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box’, SOPHIE’s ‘Faceshopping’, and Audioslave’s self-titled record, something tells me it just shouldn’t work. But it jars, captivates, and evolves in a way that can only intrigue. Where I could potentially see a disconnect, between the rawness of the vocal performance and the pristine nature of the production, I’m left instead in a place of awe. An awe that each part of this jigsaw has been very deliberately put in place to create a uniquely enjoyable listening experience. Playful childish piano runs collide with distorted percussion; it’s eerie, but I love it for it.
‘Rattle My Cage’ is perhaps the flip-side to ‘Empty Vessel’, where Mosa inputs too much into the machine for it to handle. The distorted percussion clouds the mix, and it’s off kilter kick drum pattern is so at odds with soaring strings and the tinkle of these pleasant liquid synths and guitar lines. The addition of claps here and more percussion there overbears what is an enjoyable melody and direction to the track, and in this instance taking advice from his own approaches to tracks like the powerful ballad ‘Sharing The Light’ may have proven more effective. Here the emotion of the track works in tandem with powerfully uplifting instrumentation, and rather than feeling like I’m in the middle of a fist-fight outside a pub, I’m instead in the smoking area having a deep chat after a few pints with a kind stranger.
Into the second half ‘Ruminations and Adaptations’ we are met with 6-and-a-half minutes of ‘Next Words’. I’m a massive fan of this track, I really am. The integration of each instrument, from the raw and almost distant bassline, to synths that hang in the air for what feels like forever, and then that initial drop of the sharpest high-end percussion…it’s a real success. And then, we fall…we fall into piano and heavenly layered vocals before the swell takes us up and down and up and down over the halfway point. Everything about this track is so deliberate and executed with a poise that I’m in awe of. Bright, zapping synth patterns arrive and leave in the blink of an eye, like the most gregarious friend at a party; you only really want them on their own in short doses, but in the group they’re the glue of a brilliant night. Here, it’s no different. Mosa invites the listener to “choose your next words carefully”; I’d like to think he’ll be pleasantly surprised with what I’ve had to say about ‘Next Words’!
The following track ‘Call Our Own Name’ is, for me, a bit of a non-starter…though that being said, I feel as though most tracks on this record would’ve been in a tough position following what went before it. However, track 8 ‘Grey Areas’ comfortably brings us back on track. The ever-present nursery rhyme synth acts as a unique building block for the track, and the foundations on which Mosa builds culminate in an almost hypnotic piece of minimalistic electronic that grows on the listener as it evolves. Penultimate track ‘Fade Away’ is perhaps the odd one out on this record, but that sore-thumb description in no way detracts from what it brings in its own right. It’s a powerful piece of uplifting folk rock with a pummelling backline and coarse yet soulful vocals. As if the best bits of Black Stone Cherry collaborated with Beck; I appreciate that’s one hell of a left-turn with regards to what I’ve said of the rest of the album, but I mean it sincerely in the best possible way. It’s so unexpected, but I’m enamoured more so by its inclusion.
‘Til The Fire Dies’ closes out ‘Ruminations and Adaptations’, with Mosa calling for us to ‘take it easy, take it slow’ from the get go. It’s not my favourite track across the album, but I can appreciate it as an album closer. It’s slow to build, and although I may have preferred to have heard it with more a live and raw feel, it does the job I feel it’s there to do in drawing together the journey Mosa has taken us on. ‘Ruminations and Adaptations’ is a genuinely interesting release from an exciting solo project out of Oxford, and although imperfections and inconsistencies are laid bare on a couple of occasions, I’ve come to really enjoy it as a body of work on multiple listens.
There’s legs in this, of that I’m sure, and my intrigue has been peaked in working out where Mosa will go next. If I had my way, I think I’ve made fairly clear where I’d want it to head, but I have every confidence that any decision Mosa makes going forward will look to be inventive, will take initiative, and will draw from a real variety of influences without losing his own flavour and mark. I’d thoroughly encourage you to give this full release a real hard listen, because there’s moments here that are beyond just ‘good’.