Active Child, You Are All I See

Active Child, You Are All I See

Take the most stately, delicately grand — but not overwhelming — music Kate Bush ever recorded, all fragile, glacially beautiful keys and soaring, angelic vocals, then weld to it a funkier, more ’80s-influenced sound and a lurking-in-the-background urge to get down-n-dirty, and what you’ll come up with might well sound like Active Child’s debut full-length, You Are All I See.

Active Child one-man-band Pat Grossi melds those two sides of his musical personality — high-flying neo-baroque and soulful funk-pop — so completely together you barely even notice the seams. It might sound like it’d be jarring to go from the icy-cool delicacy of the title track to the playful-yet-pretty bump of “Hanging On” or the even more sensual “Playing House” (which makes me think of fellow throwbacks Chromeo at points), then bounce back up to the lush, expansive synth-pop of “See Thru Eyes,” but honest to God, it works.

Grossi’s strange, arresting voice is the uniting factor for a lot of the album, his baritone pipes either pushing into Bush or Lisa Gerrard territory on songs like “You Are All I See” and “Johnny Belinda” or veering over into Billy Ocean(!)-esque loverman croon, and he shifts smoothly from one to the other without so much as a wink. It feels like he’s fully aware that maybe these two types of music don’t necessarily fit together most of the time; he just doesn’t care, so long as they’re what he wants to do.

Along the way, he dips into the same primary-colored retro-’80s realm swum by M83 on 2008’s Saturdays = Youth, bringing together huge-sounding walls of synth, a dash of Angelo Badalamenti-like mysteriousness (see “See Thru Eyes,” in particular), moody, Peter Gabriel-esque passages, and what sure sounds like an enduring love of ’80s electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream. It’s massive and gorgeous, with lots of echoey, sometimes tribal-sounding drums, swooping/soaring vocal lines, and banks of keyboards that practically wrap around you like a fuzzy blanket — see instrumental track “Ivy” for a near-perfect example of that aspect of Active Child’s music.

For all its jaw-dropping beauty, though, You Are All I See is utterly bleak, with an undercurrent of hopelessness and sadness washing through it all. Even when the song’s hitting all those new jack swing moments, there’s still a crushing sense of melancholy to it, like a love affair that you know can’t possibly end in any way other than a flat-out tragedy.

Grossi’s been hurt, badly, and he’s still attempting to cope with it somehow — I think that it’s, anyway, and it certainly explains the distant, icy aloofness of a lot of You Are All I See. Despite the intimacy on tracks like “Playing House” or the stalker tune “Shield & Sword,” Grossi/Active Child keeps his/its distance, seemingly afraid of getting too close again. This album is the sound of Grossi trying to pick up the pieces of his heart and, well, failing, at least in part because he still hasn’t fully let go. The process, though, is heart-crushingly beautiful from out here on the outside.

(Feature photo by Ricky Chapman.)

[Active Child is playing 9/3/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Com Truise, Bang Bangz, & Chin Xaou Ti Won.]
(Vagrant Records --; Active Child --; Active Child (Facebook) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, September 2nd, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Active Child, You Are All I See

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: #HelpAmy + Active Child (Rev’d!) + The Dodos + Andre Williams + /Crustaceans + More on October 8th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    […] This evening, then, Fitzgerald’s has a great one-two punch, with excellent indie-folk-rockers The Dodos on one floor (accompanied by The Luyas, who I’m not quite as keen on, but eh), and then awesome, electronics-heavy baroque pop act Active Child on the other. Got a review of AC’s first full-length, You Are All I See, up over here. […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend: M83 + Mates of State + GN’R + Girl in a Coma + Young Girls + Tinariwen + Tiger Lillies + More on January 5th, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    […] great in his own right — and a pretty perfect fit, really. Hell, when I reviewed AC’s You Are All I See a couple of months ago, M83 was one of the things I thought of immediately when I listened to […]

Leave a Reply

H-Town Mixtape

Upcoming Shows



Recent Posts


Our Sponsors