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Talk In Colour – ColliderScope

on August 15, 2012, 7:57am

Is this music for scientists or for artists? Using a deft play on words in the album title, ColliderScope, the full debut from London quintet Talk In Colour suggests a marriage of both. Formerly known as The Shadow Orchestra, Talk In Colour eschews the conventional band line-up for a collage of electronic and traditional instruments, with cello and harp complimenting keyboards, electric guitar, and drums. The music is highly percussive, mixing electronica and dance with folk melodies and jazz elements to create deeply intricate soundscapes. It’s a contemporary sound with its roots in the late ’90s.

The record is arranged along classical music lines, its ten tracks divided into two sections like movements in a symphony. The short opening instrumental “Intra” acts as an overture, with spidery keyboard figures building their web of intrigue, setting a tone for what follows. The song’s Japanese-influenced phrases are also a recurring motif, and the album mixes vocal songs with instrumentals seamlessly. Keyboardist Mary Erskine’s vocals add a light texture to proceedings, sometimes with the smooth, conversational tone of a Dido, as on “Bones”, and elsewhere employing a Celtic lilt, like on “Rocking Horse”. Here the singer plays with the melody lines, multi-tracked to great effect, over brisk beats, while cello and delicate harp add a mournful twist and guitar bursts bring drama.

Lyrically, “Rocking Horse” works around the contrary notions of safety and claustrophobia found in familiar places. “Nightshifts”, with its busy percussion, modulating keys, emotive harp, and ringing guitar, is equally successful in coloring a dream-like canvas. Of the pure instrumentals, the stabbing “Direct Out”, with its ebbs and flows and Japanese motifs, works particularly well. At odd times, the band seems to be in search of a tune, but mostly it drills down into a rich seam. Yet sometimes the music is just too perfectly formed to sink in. You reach out for a hook to take hold of, but it’s not always there. It’s the kind of record you need to persevere with, hitting repeat to fully absorb the ideas. Music for scientists or for artists? It may take a few more plays to decide, but the research is worth it.

Essential Tracks: “Rocking Horse”, “Nightshifts”