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Colorlist: The Fastest Way To Become The Ocean

img  Tobias Fischer

This is island music. Not necessarily in the sense of the popular hypothetical question – although, purely on the basis of the quality of the material here, it could well work as such, too. More in the sense of creating a remote, far-off place made of nothing but sound; a primordial territory, where music is still considered a mystery rather than a science and a kind of dark magic rather than an art, where a single note can elicit the most intense images and the most striking sensations. Jazz, ambient, minimalism, world music – these words mean nothing here, their former content reduced to a distant echo, their context banished to a faraway continent, their constituent letters printed on the dissolving pages of a pseudo-scientific textbook washed onto the shoreline. In the complete absence of the busy schedules, expectations and symbols of modern life, time folds in on itself, development, destination and duration turning into useless concepts. It is a music that exists not for the sake of the appreciation of outsiders or the admiration of posterity, but because it wants to, existing as an emotional diary of its creators' desires and dreams.

This is the music of Colorlist. Far from residing on some imaginary island, the  duo hails from one of of the USA's epicentres of experimental sound art, Chicago. Charles Gorczynski plays saxophone, synthesizer and harmonium. Charles Rumback mans the drums, marimba and guitars. Both on stage and in the studio, they're allowing several of these things to take place at the same time by feeding their themes through looping devices and effect pedals. Over the course of their improvisations, a graceful flow and clearly defined forms emerge from undefined openings composed of chaotic percussion clatter and shards of harmony. All but imperceptibly, Rumback will align the drums at his disposal into regular metrums – initially just a solitary tom or a fragile hihat – and it takes a while before one actually notices that there's stable movement rather than random figures, that regular patterns have established themselves. By then, of course, all resistance has become futile, as the gentle persuasiveness of the flow is running through a riverbed made of nostalgic memories and sweet reminiscences.

The mind and the body are equally important here: If Rumback's increasingly tightening motoric web represents the shamanic, tribal tendencies of the material, Gorczynski is the voice of beauty. His licks are made of quicksilver and honey, every single note as important as the melodic arch it is an integral part of. Breath is as important as duration, colour as seminal as pitch. There is meaning to each tone, a story told in every track, a journey to be taken on every session, a ritual to be undergone and completed. Things happen with a sense of inescapable logic, but it is a positive predetermination, fulfilling the hope that all will be well in the end.

Published on precious ten-inch vinyl, The Fastest Way to Become the Ocean is shorter than their previous full-lengths. And yet, it may well be both their most complete and representative release to date. It feels like a live recording, yet it makes use of the endless technical possibilities of the studio situation. It creates a sense of transport and of precision alike. It has the swing, warmth and sensuality resulting from the tiny imperfections of acoustic instruments, but integrates them into a continuum partly held together by electronics. It is as individual as one can possibly be in a time when the simultaneity of myriads of personal approaches is questioning the concept of individuality. But it also pays tribute to its influences and inspirations, lineages and traditions – although, clearly, not everything is equally tangible here: Josh Eustis of electronica-formation Telefon Tel Aviv has produced, but you can't hear it, for example. And although Colorlist have been associated with the still influential post rock community of their current hometown, it's a loose connection rather than an outright affiliation. Still, it is precisely this seemingly missing focus, which casts their sound into remarkably sharp relief.

An influence which is impossible to ignore, meanwhile, is Gorczynski's fondness for the undulating, melodic inventions of Terry Riley, most immediately palpable on the irresistible, downward-cascading sequences of „Nine Lives“. And yet, what seem to be typical minimalist pulsations uncover a far more intricate way of directing the action, as polyrhythmical variations on a fundamental motive (first played by a feathery flute, then by a variety of intertwined saxophone lines) do not so much develop, but gently shift, a pleasant unpredictability governing the processes. Rather than competing with each other, these themes seem intent on merging into a single layer, a meta-melody whose shimmering outer edges oscillate as passionately and wildly like the edges of a flame, yet with the calm and comfort of a hearth – even more so, when, as in the later stages of the piece, they are supported by a foundation of a repeating cycle of sustained bass notes. On „Coming into Sight“, meanwhile, which leans on a nostalgic harmonium progression, on top of which the music slowly unfolds from a quiet, sentimental opening to an uplifting, rich texture, folk influences merge with field recordings and pain blends with bliss, as the world crumbles into poetic prisms of sound and light.

This is music that builds like a wave washing over that imaginary island, but there's no need to be afraid. Wherever it may take you will feel like home.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Colorlist
Homepage: Serein Recordings

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