Canon Blue - Colonies

Jay Mansfield 29/09/2007

Based in the state of Virginia, Canon Blue's Daniel James (he is the sole member) had previously been resident for a short period of time in New Orleans. However, a traumatic period of his life saw him move back to his hometown, and his malaise reached a nadir with the Hurricane Katrina derived floods that swept through New Orleans in August of 2005. James' resultant musical output mirrored that catastrophic flow of water, and soon the album Colonies had taken shape.

Listing Tom Waits, Serge Gainsbourg and Ennio Morricone among his influences, Colonies instead sounds more informed by the work of Boards of Canada and Bjork. And, although not explicitly mentioned as a guiding light, latter day Radiohead, and especially Thom Yorke's solo album The Eraser, seem to provide James' strongest inspiration. Indeed, the album is mastered by sometime Radiohead & Thom Yorke remixer Cristian Vogel. Not that that's entirely pertinent, but it gives you some idea of what kind of sound James is aiming for.

It also creates the impression that Colonies is an album of overtly electronic music, of pieces composed on and for electronic instruments. It's not really the case, and it seems that James' songs don't really suit the clothes they're dressed up in. Gentle, traditional acoustic ballads are garnished with furious cymbal rushes, synthesizers and other burbling accoutrements, and it doesn't feel quite right. 'Pale Horse' manages to wrestle free of its underwhelming production, but it's not until the midsection of 'Sea Monsters' and the Sufjan Steven-like 'Target Practice' that the instrumentation falls into equilibrium with the tender and reflective song-writing underneath it all. It's no surprise that this pair are the twin highlights of the album.

The remainder of the LP's second half continues in a markedly more refrained manner, but nothing else hits the target with any satisfaction, and the album concludes with the flat 'Baptesme'. A couple of tracks earlier, and the second part of 'Mother Tongue' had seen Jones' escaping from the dynamic straitjacket he seems bound by, only to find he can't get away from the ghost of Radiohead; it sounds in parts remarkably like 'Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box'.