Release Date: Aug 23, 2011
Record label: Vagrant
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Ambient Pop
Listening to Pat Grossi - aka Active Child - do his thing, I'm reminded of A Clockwork Orange and Alex's glee when hammering a bit of the old “Ludwig Van”: “Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh” the droogy bastard frothed “It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now. ” Consult any accredited dictionary for the definition of 'sumptuous' and there sits Grossi's pouting mug, the youngster looking all mopey and intense, or maybe a bit otherworldly, or maybe a little smug for having produced one of the most enveloping, most downright gorgeous records of the year. Real horrorshow, like.
Thanks to both a strong initial EP in Curtis Lane and equally remarkable live appearances, expectations for Active Child's debut album were quite high. What's really remarkable is how well You Are All I See not only matches but almost exceeds those expectations: its a full-length statement of purpose that manages the trick of both identifying an aesthetic and exploring variations within it. Pat Grossi's remarkable singing voice remains the understandable centerpiece, a sweet, simply gorgeous falsetto that begs comparisons to more contemporary acts like Antony and the Johnsons and Bon Iver, but more accurately calls to mind the pristine singing of Morten Harket of a-ha.
It may have been a relatively short period in his childhood, but Pat Grossi’s experience as a world-touring choirboy is something that has stuck with the L.A.-based songwriter. As Active Child, his full-length debut shimmers with a mixture of electronic textures, angelic harp work and layered falsetto vocals—all with the kind of choral grandeur that feels like it’s coming straight through a stained-glass window. With the influx of worshippers only getting stronger these days, Active Child is a welcome addition to the pulpit.
Pat Grossi: former choir boy, the driving force behind bedroom-pop project Active Child, and, with the release of You Are All I See, currently blasting to the creative forefront of, if you will, the New New Romantics. Or, as it’s been bandied about on various blogs and websites: nu-gaze, a modern shoegaze revival with notable genre leaders M83, School of Seven Bells, and just about anyone who wears a My Bloody Valentine, New Order, Kate Bush, or Simple Minds influence on their sleeve. That New (New) Romantic signature of intense longing permeates You Are All I See, and the creative process of isolation and studio geekery is present, even heightened, compared to shoegaze music past.
Though no sound suits every taste, the harp has to be one of the most inoffensive instruments in existence, which is why we aren't greeted in heaven by angels with marimbas. Active Child's Pat Grossi makes free with the harp's transfiguring power on his new album, and it's not the only thing stacking the deck in his favor. You Are All I See is full of stuff that almost everybody likes, or seems to, right now: epic electronic landscapes, monastically minimal R&B, and currents of rumbling post-dubstep sound design.
There’s been a recent glut of pasty bedroom boys making watered-down attempts at the sounds of a holy trinity of cultish female R&B singers ([a]Aaliyah[/a], [b]Cassie[/b] and [b]Amerie[/b]), but Pat Grossi stands out. While ‘[b]Hanging On[/b]’ and ‘[b]Playing House[/b]’ tip their hat to the aforementioned ladies’ smooth grooves, Grossi’s sonic palette stretches far wider. ‘[b]Ancient Eye[/b]’ sounds like ’70s Italian proggers [b]Goblin[/b] meeting the city-chilled softness of [b]The Blue Nile[/b], and ‘[b]See Thru Eyes[/b]’ blends the drums of the Top Gun OST with subtler, more kosmische strains.
Not that long into You Are All I See, it becomes quite obvious that Pat Grossi, the mastermind behind the intimate bedroom pop project Active Child, has a great ear for melodies, synth tones, and beats. Grossi is able to construct tracks that nod equally towards electronic music and R&B, instrumentals that somehow manage to sound infinitely lush yet still grounded on a budget tier that will probably make some home-recording hopefuls wonder out loud about why they didn't mess with their electronic keyboards more often. The other thing Grossi really has going for him is his voice, an effortless falsetto that retains its strength whether he's belting out declarations or pillow talk murmurs.
It’s difficult to quell the suspicion that if Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon ditched his acoustic guitar for a fuzzed-out sequencer, he would sound exactly like Pat Grossi, otherwise known as Active Child. Grossi’s crystalline manchild falsetto is the most obvious comparison, but there are other parallels: cryptic, metaphor-infused lyrics, unstructured melodies, honest-to-goodness romanticism, and a penchant for infusing an all-encompassing melancholia into their work. Grossi, in particular, has found a niche in sadly sung, slow-burning space pop, carving out his spot on 2010’s starry, harp-strewn Curtis Lane EP.
Halfway between “Beth/Rest” on Bon Iver’s newest album and M83’s entire career, Pat Grossi’s Active Child combines synth-pop dynamics and atmospheres with lilting harp parts. This album lives and dies on your appreciation of a type of synth pop that hasn’t ever really been in style but seems to have been phenomenally popular around the time of The Breakfast Club. If it were possible for an album to fellate the abstract cultural approximation of a decade, You Are All I See would jump at the chance to take the entire 1980s in its gaping, synthy maw.