If falling apart is a necessary part of the process of self-discovery, then the key is to let the pieces fall into some kind of recognizable pattern. On his latest release “Positively Falling Apart”, Craig Mainprize is deconstructing his previous identity as an indie/folk-rocker and recreating himself as a kind of neo-soul electronic poet. The record is an unusual but compelling combination of soulful electric guitar licks, programmed drumming, acoustic instruments like glockenspiels and melodicas, synths, vocoders, and free-associative poetry. The palette is diverse and very different from the kind of thing he’s done in the past. It’s immaculately arranged, but still retains a bit of a ramshackle mix-tape feel, not unlike a hip-hop or funk record. Bass guitars thrum in a thick, chunky tone. Vocals are intimately recorded and layered to great effect. Wah-wah guitars bring a seventies funk flavor. Futuristic keys drift through the background like a shimmering mist. It’s instrumentally lush and quite beautiful.
Lead track “10,000 lbs.” is understated and lyrical, with a breathy ambiance that instantly transports you to a sunny beach somewhere. The words carry a nautical metaphor and speak of embarking on a voyage, with a vague sense that maybe the journey will carry us away from a painful memory. The guitars reverberate through a peaceful empty space, and the glock shines in little points like sun hitting the water. The sound of a reverb coil being stuck appears in the songs final bars, furthering the watery vibe.
“Stand On The Ceiling (Touch The Ground)” reveals a love of seventies funk and psychedelic soul. Like a lost Curtis Mayfield or Motown classic, this song starts with a trippy breakdown and eventually segues into a wah-led funk strut. It’s dark, kind of menacing, and catchy as hell. Pulsing organs and backing vocals colour the background with otherworldly soul. Midway through, everything disappears except for Mainprize’s voice, crooning into your ear like he’s standing next to you. It’s spine-tingling.
Returning to a sunnier feel, “All The Pretty Diamonds” is a soul ballad with a ragged Dylanesque vocal, complete with couplets of lyrical insights into the very nature of love. In the absence of percussion, the song is propelled by the snap of an electric guitar, a simple bass-line, and a choir of moaning backing vocals. The guitar solo brings a bit of grit, and a harmonica increases the Band/Dylan vibe. It’s a straightforwardly beautiful song with a evocatively minimalist arrangement.
The next song launches off with an eighties-style drum sample, complete with handclaps. Eventually sparing guitar and keys enter the frame and a soul jam starts to congeal. Here Mainprize begins to plead with an absent lover, begging her to thickly apply “Yer Pink Lipstick”. The main focus of this tune is the vocal: Mainprize moans, howls, and grunts his way through funky appeals to the lady in question. It’s a great showcase for his versatility as a singer.
A hint of rock and roll rears its ugly head on “Yer A Journalist”. From a droning intro emerges a slow-building rock song with lots of great kiss-off lyrics. Again, the vocals take center stage with Mainprize pushing his range all over the map. “You’re just a journalist, pulled in opposing directions” he sings, with more than a hint of anger.
The next track takes a weird, spacey detour into the world of the electronic. “Elvis Costello” is a levitating tone poem built on modulating, delayed guitar licks, droning synths, and a vocoder. It’s weird and wonderful all at once. The digitized voice rambles in free-verse and Mainprize’s untreated voice appears in the background, hovering like a ghost. It ends with an extended drone fading into the distance.
“The Borderline” starts out as discreet, minor key funk. Adding some handclaps and a wheezing melodica, it expands into a trippy dub-style build, before keys and guitar take the centre stage with some widescreen washes across the sonic spectrum. The rhythmic cadences of the voice start to interplay with the simple programming, and then the song evaporates on a major chord, never breaking open the emotions that it taunts the listener with like glimmering jewels. It ends on a tantalizingly vague note, like an unfinished thought. For an artist this diverse, it’s the perfect place to leave a listener.
“Positively Falling Apart” ends with a nice cover of a Theaternia song, “Changer”, featuring Jenny Naismith as the Juliet to Mainprize’s Romeo, which was apparently a late addition to the album. This song is the most straightforwardly electronic song on the album, and as such it’s a bit of an anomaly. A distorted guitar rages on top of a lush bed of synths, building the intensity up to the very last second.
“Positively Falling Apart” is a surprising and eclectic album by an artist who continues to evolve, fearlessly and confidently refining his identity with each new release. It is the sound of someone who is willing to fall apart, just to be able to put the pieces back together in a different way. We should all be so brave.
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