The Chicago based Colorlist, comprised of crossover jazz duo, the coincidentally named Charles Rumback and Charles Gorczynski, both multi-instrumentalists, worked long distance on this their third album proper following 2010’s ‘The Fastest Way to Become the Ocean’, released on Welsh label Serein records, after Gorczynski moved to Oakland, California. Rumback mans percussion, bells and melodica, whilst Gorczynski plays saxophone, numerous woodwind instruments, synthesizers and harmonium. Specializing in improvised song forms, live electronics, and sonic exploration they are known for their powerful live shows, having recently collaborated with Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv fame.
This reviewer has only heard a couple of tracks from their previous releases, but this doesn’t sound like a big departure, and that’s no bad thing. They have a very jazzy organic freestyle feel, which must stem from their improvisations. Songs evolve naturally over languid rhythms segueing effortlessly into one another.
The opening track ‘Sun song’ has a slightly mournful feel with a melancholy woodwind section and a flighty sax, which is also apparent on ‘Current’, the third track. That track is all tumbling drums and soothing sax with gentle guitar riffing. The second track, ‘Montreal’ is a laid back number with more woodwind swells redolent to this listener of the latter parts of Phillip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack with its images of city skylines and tumbling clouds. ‘Waiting’ opens with an obligatory music box and chiming flutter of brushed drumming, which evokes icicles. Synths are used sparingly and unobtrusively. The title track paints an ever so slightly sinister firmament.
‘Where will we go – ambles along like some burdensome pilgrimage complete with clanking cowbell. The rhythm alters cleverly at the two thirds point and ends with quiet majesty. ‘Through the fires’ has a winter feel to it again and is slightly more experimental with another flighty sax refrain wringing its way through a gentle cacophony of drums, which grows ever more strangled as the track proceeds. The tracks discordance grates a little after a while, particularly after such a pleasant opening to the album. The album closes with ‘Safe years’. Drums tumble again before it switches to minor keys with a seeming blend of synths and harmonium. The album doesn’t so much culminate as peter out.
Like a less robust – maybe more delicate – and less syncopated Dan Snaith during his Manitoba phase on ‘Start breaking my heart’, before he got a band and went all psychedelic. Perhaps it’s the Canadian connection with one track, Montreal, being named after the Quebec city suggesting the connection. The cover depicts a foggy sun hazed forest canopy, and the tracks seem to evoke a descent into and escape from a busy winter forest floor. No track particularly strikes the listener as standout, although Montreal is perhaps the most successful. After a pleasant start, the album meanders, but never really goes anywhere. The listener can’t help but think the duo are lacking in ambition, or have a very muted colour palette. Perhaps it would work better in the live environment where the full array of the instrumentation is apparent. You would never know they were a country apart.