February 21 | 18:30 - 19:15
Clock Tower Square
Hogdzin Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
On a beach in Honduras in the summer of 2010, Nick Mulvey experienced his sink or swim moment. Surrounded by strangers, clutching an acoustic guitar, having just told the other members of his Mercury Prize nominated band,Portico Quartet, that he needed this two week holiday to decide whether he was permanently leaving them, he started to sing. Roll forward to May 2014, and armed with a critically acclaimed, top 10 UK album in ‘First Mind’, he made the right decision.
For the 28–year–old, who featured on the BBC Sound of 2014 long–list in January, and sold–out every UK show he’s played for the past twelve months, picking up the guitar again felt like a homecoming after five years as Britain’s foremost player of the hang – the Swiss percussion instrument invented in the early 2000s.
The freeform jazz of Portico was switched for a trusty acoustic guitar, and whilst the sparse, cleansed beauty of Nick Drake‘s music can be heard, there’s a distinct sense of adventure more akin to the likes of Steve Reich, and even the guitar–picking intricacies of John Martyn that sits a lot closer to his sound. It’s difficult to pinpoint but enriching to listen to. Mulvey listened over and over to songs such as Lennon’s Jealous Guy and Prince’s When Doves Cry, pulling them apart to understand their intricacies.
“My playing is all about lines, not strumming chords. It’s about having motion and rhythm and groove. It doesn’t have to be complex, but it has to be animated. Singer–songwriter stuff, Philip Glass – it’s all in there.”
Mulvey may look like he started afresh, but he insists that everything is connected. “Even though there’s a surface level difference between my music then and now, it’s all the same to me. I do the same things on the guitar that I did on the hang. It’s about repetition, hypnotic music, the groove.”