When Canadian rock-R&B artist Al Spx was composing “Neuroplasticity,” her stark new sophomore CD as Cold Specks, she was living in the theoretically inspirational metropolis of London. But she wasn’t inspired. “I fell out of love with London. it was just too busy, too expensive, too overwhelming, so I needed to get out for awhile,” says Spx, who moved to a secluded cottage in Somerset for three months to conceive the disc’s most inventive dirges, “Absisto,” “Old Knives” and “A Formal Invitation.” Then she flew to relatively serene Montreal – where she currently resides – to record with producer-arranger Jim Anderson.
You’ve become a go-to collaborator for other artists. Did you intend to?
Not at all. But I haven’t done that much. I contributed on two songs for Moby’s last record “Innocents,” and I sang on Ambrose Akinmusire’s recent record – he’s a jazz trumpeter on Blue Note. And then I contributed vocals on the last Swans record. But if I come across someone’s music that I enjoy and respect, I’m happy to lend them my voice.
And Michael Gira from Swans returned the favor, singing on “Neuroplasticity”?
I was just writing some notes in the studio of what I wanted on this record, and I’d written “Michael Gira-esque backing vocals.” So I got in touch with him, and he really seemed to enjoy what I was doing, and he was happy to get in on it. So I sent him some files, and he sang on them and sent them back. So I then sang on his record, in kind.
You recently said that you hated humanity.
I said that once. But I talk a lot of s—, and sometimes it happens to get printed. But I don’t completely stand by that. My joking just doesn’t translate well, I think. So I don’t hate humans. I only hate some of them, not all of them.
With the lyric, “Every old knife rusting in my back/ I will drive into yours,” the song ”Old Knives” sounds like some human somewhere is going to get it – true?
No! My agenda is just to write songs and play them live to crowds, and to continue singing. But this record reflects a wide variety of emotions. For instance, the first line on the album is. “Dance, darling – don’t shuffle,” and the last line is “I’ve got an unrelenting desire to fall apart.” So I guess it’s emotionally confused.
Various animals pop up on the album, too.
I’m not sure where my obsession with animals comes from. I’ve never had a pet in my entire life. And now I travel too much to have one. Plus, I’ve been told that I’m a dependent myself.
IF YOU GO
Where: Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Nov. 21
Tickets: $14 to $18