With the release of her critically applauded full-length debut, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion!, Cold Specks, the solo recording project of Canadian-born, UK-based singer/songwriter Ladan Hussein, quickly became an international sensation. In fact, in the two year period after Graceful Expulsion‘s release Hussein was incredibly busy — obviously, a huge portion of her time was spent touring to support her debut effort, and she was a hotly-desired collaborator, as she wound up collaborating with Moby, Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock, Swans and others. Amazingly, during such a busy period, Spyx managed to start working on the material that wound up becoming her sophomore effort, Neuroplasticity, which Mute Records released back in last year.
Partially written during a winter spent in a cottage in Wick, Somerset, UK, several songs on the album, as Hussein has mentioned in interviews were heavily inspired by her surroundings. And interestingly, the material on the album manages to be some of the most complex lyrically and sonically that Spyx had her backing band have released to date – while managing to be some of their most pop-oriented material, as well. A song such as “Absisto,” the album’s first single is comprised of choppy, almost staccato blocks of keyboard chords, jazz-inspired drumming and throbbing bass. And in some way, the instrumentation evokes the anxiety, claustrophobia and cabin fever that can only come from being stuck indoors for days at a time. But there’s also a slow-burning and irresistible sensuality just under the surface. The album’s latest single “Season of Doubt” is a sparse, haunting jazz dirge comprised of forlorn blasts of horn, spacious piano chords, which emphasize Hussein’s rich, expressive vocals.
Interestingly, Neuroplasticity’s latest single manages to be prescient in its timeliness — it evokes the conflicting sensations of horror, outrage, weariness and confusion that many of us have felt during the last few years — i.e., Sandra Bland, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Mike Brown, and countless others. Thematically, “Season of Doubt” channels “Strange Fruit” and Nina Simone’s work — fearlessly, emphatically and empathetically pointing out the plight of Black folk.
The official video is admittedly quite affecting as it superimposes her face over footage of the youth of what could be Ferguson, Baltimore or countless other places protesting and rioting. It points out a repeated and insidious process of unfair, prejudicial treatment, followed by protests and unfair treatment with an age old weariness. Enough is enough! From the video and form her work, Hussein has quickly proven that she’s an uncompromising artist.