It’s been four years since Active Child’s Pat Grossi released his full-length debut, You Are All I See, an album that gave peeks into Grossi’s brilliance through seamless integration of electronics with his choral vocal skills and multi-instrumental offerings. In those four years, Grossi has clearly been hard at work on a follow-up that’s as unrelentingly innovative as his last, and Mercy is solid evidence of that. Throughout Mercy, Grossi traverses the lands of electronic, R&B, soul, gospel and more. With dulcet tones, Active Child takes listeners on an emotional journey through love lost.
Much of Mercy is filled with songs of desperation and passion, an outpouring of deeply emotional lyricism atop ornately arranged orchestrations that mesh pitch-changed vocals with sweetly plucked harps and slow-droning synths. There’s a fine attention to detail with how each part counters another, ensuring that each song is as rich and dynamic as it is emotionally complex. One song may rely primarily on sparse acoustic instrumentation while the next builds upon tightly packed vocal layers that bleed into a mystifying wash of organic and electronic arrangements.
Tracks like “Midnight Swim” prove to be a perfect representation of what Active Child has to offer; beginning with delicate strings and piano, but curiously delving into other sonic realms, Grossi crafts an entrancing soundscape with minimal pieces to the puzzle. However, there’s as much joy in his minimalism as there is his maximalism. Immediately after “Midnight Swim,” the album jumps into its most club-ready track, “Stranger,” a song that boasts bouncy synth lines with four on the floor drums and syncopated drum hits to coincide with Grossi’s pulsating vocal melodies.
This album is filled with brilliant dichotomies such as this, soft arrangements countering growling synths that slowly bubble into the mix or soaring falsettos riding atop a bass heavy downtempo dream. “Never Far Away” comes out of the gate as a glossy pop jam that’s heavily reliant on the skittering hi-end and shuffling snares, but Grossi’s vocals bring soulful croons and energetic overdubs that flesh out the mix in an exciting and refreshing way. This breadth of talent found within Grossi’s lyricism and vocal display combines with his mind-blowing sense of aural arrangement to make for a mesmerizing listening experience.
There’s a sense of self-affirmation found both lyrically and musically on this record as well; it’s as much about Grossi overcoming heartache as it is about his musical explorations. It’s clear that Active Child is going to be an ever-evolving project, and with that will come some growing pains. But it’s just as evident that regardless of what direction Grossi takes, it’ll be carefully calculated and filled with countless embellishments that the listener can get lost in.