Novo Amor captures the landscapes and memories that we all carry with us on Collapse List.

Release date: April 5, 2024 | AllPoints | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

For Wales native Ali John Meridith-Lacey, better known by his moniker Novo Amor (Portuguese for ‘new love‘), life and love are intrinsically linked to one’s environment. It’s a sense that pervades all his music, but is especially noticeable in his instrumental tracks, that music, for Lacey, is about landscape, about capturing the holistic, fully zoomed-out overview of the momentary emotions. There’s something very pure about it. This is abstract art, in the sense that macro perspectives of feelings are given, with enough deliberate vagueness for us to project our own circumstances. Novo Amor also has this great lyrical attribute that he shares with Bon Iver, where the indirectness but floweriness of his language makes it easy to latch on to individual words and apply vast, imprecise emotion to them. It becomes addictive, a moment that can’t be accurately abridged, but demands to be experienced again and again, if only to understand what exactly it is that’s coming up for you. Great art doesn’t always have to tell you what the artist felt – it can show you, and when the demonstration is so opaque, it becomes easy and comfortable to self-involve.

It’s been difficult for me to decide what it is I want to say about Collapse List. I’m deeply aware that what this album means to me might be vastly different to others based on your experiences and where you’re at right now. I feel a sense of peace and relaxation, a countryside life quietness that allows the fullness of one’s internal worlds. Your interpretation will really come down to what that world is for you, what comes up when you strip away everything else. I feel a romantic sense of loss, surrender, helplessness, and a bittersweet melancholy. There’s a sense of sorrow that has been processed, understood, released, yet remains palpable, describable, and seen. Maybe for you this album will bring up the past, maybe it’s something you’re going through now, or maybe a life you haven’t lived yet, but anticipate or fantasise about.

Lacey wrote this album having moved away from the major city of Cardiff and into the Welsh countryside, where he has built a studio beside his home. Collapse List is technically his fourth solo album, however it feels more like a follow-up to his second album Cannot Be, Whatsoever, with his third album being a instrumental one based on his experiences in Antarctica with GreenPeace Oceans (it’s a testament to Lacey’s textural soundscapes that he can basically just strip away the vocals and fully capture such a unique and particular biome instrumentally). Where Cannot Be, Whatsoever feels like it’s in the weeds, overwhelmed by the encapsulated feelings, Collapse List is a more calm and matured perspective on the same emotions. It’s as if Lacey has taken a big step back from these feelings, come to peace with them, and found a way to capture the whole of their meaning. When pain makes sense, it becomes a lesson, and Collapse List is a distilling of the revelations.

For those not familiar with Novo Amor, Lacey is a master of soundtrack-friendly indie folk, as popularised by artists like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. He shares a lot of similarities with the latter artist, using extensive vocal layering to create texturally rich harmonies. The instrumental similarities are there as well, especially in “Same Day, Same Face”, and “Me v2”. It’s a comparison I don’t want to overstay, but I mean it in the most complimentary way; where Bon Iver’s i,i and 22, A Million use these odd rhythmic ideas and strange vocal distortions to create dissonance and fleeting moments of clarity, Novo Amor seems to have found a way to distill the consonant moments and make the ‘weirdness’ a lot more easily consumable.

The album opens with the beautiful “First Place”. Starting with very light and ornamental instrumentation, we are immediately introduced to Lacey’s stunning head voice and addictive phrasing. The lyrical themes are introduced early too, with lines like ‘Was kinda hoping, you wouldn’t notice, I had a moment’, then in the chorus ‘damned if I won’t be digging in my heels/ coalescing all our favourite evenings’. Lacey dances around these themes of embarrassment and anxiety in romantic situations in a vague enough way that it’s easy to project our own experiences, but it’s always followed up by a sense of assuredness of self and appreciation for the moments shared. I found his mature perspective to be a very comfortable one, and it makes the vulnerable memories in the album more like postcards and snapshots than unresolved burdens. Coming into the second verse the rhythmic section builds, and decorative guitar parts chirp along as the track drives along energetically. The entire song builds up so wonderfully, the production and variety in the instrumentation here is absolutely top tier, and as with the rest of the Collapse List. Even if you aren’t locked in on the emotions and lyrics, it’s an incredibly pleasurable listen.

“Years On” was the highlight of the album for me, and a great showcase of everything that makes Novo Amor so fantastic. It’s as if Lacey went through every sound he could think of making and picked only the most reverb-y, satisfying, body-resonating, addictive ones he could find. From synths that sound like a giant metal bowl being gently rung, single guitar notes that hum and scratch with all the kinetic sensation of twanging cables on a suspension bridge, and compressed and densely layered vocal harmonies that wash over the scene like forest rain. The same way that a perfectly intonated note on a guitar hums with the resonant frequencies of the wood it’s made from, every part of this track’s sonic tapestry feels alive and breathing. Something about the natural frequencies and resonance makes me feel deeply connected with nature, relaxed and grounded. And maybe to some extent, Lacey is just trying to capture the raw and amorphous joy of this physical side to music. As he says towards the end of this track, ‘Hell, what I wouldn’t do/ just to make a sound, make it real loud’. To some extent that’s what Collapse List is. Just capturing these overarching feelings, and finding the perfect way to make a sound. Make it real loud.

At this point I feel like I’ve said what needs to be said about Collapse List. There were other tracks I loved on this album, such as the early single “Co-Pathetic”. Tempo changing into the back half of the song’s bridge/refrain is one of my highlights of the album, and a really special moment. I hope you’ll discover for yourself not only here but in the parts of Collapse List that resonate with you, something that touches you. Because, that’s what this album is in the end, it’s a tasting platter of place and memory, and the moment that you latch onto may well be completely different to the ones that meant something to me. I don’t normally do this, but if there’s a particular place or memory this album brought up for you I’d love to read about that in the comments. So with that, find somewhere comfy and safe, close your eyes, cast your mind back to some nostalgic place, and let Novo Amor nourish your soul.

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