Nov 23 2013
When it comes to genre classifications and Jazz, the duo of Charles Gorczynski and Charles Rumback tend to stray far out on the fringes. What’s most impressive about their approach is that, both in collaboration and on individual projects, they show just how vast is the territory that comprises the fringes of Jazz.
On their duo project Colorlist, they situate themselves in that area where Jazz improvisation overlaps with the ambient drone of post-rock. The result is music with a dreamy quality, the kind one could drift off peaceably to, except for the fact there is so much life teeming in the notes that accompany the thick ambient tones, that the music is more likely to keep the listener wide awake and engaged than it is to elicit sleep. In that regard, their new release Sky Song falls right into place.
Your album personnel: Charles Gorczynski (woodwinds, synths), Charles Rumback (drums, bells), and guests: Josh Eustis (modular synthesizer), John Hughes (modular synthesizer), and Jeff Parker (guitar).
Their Colorlist recordings each have their own personality. 2008’s Lists led the conversation with talkative percussion, more of a light chatter than heavy verbosity, adding a greater sense of lightness to music that let ambient drones settle in like a thick fog. On the other hand, their previous release, 2011’s The Fastest Way To Become The Ocean, the musicians gave the peaceful music a greater sense of urgency by tinkering with both tone and tempo… a sort of high-strung ambient disposition not unlike those strangely contemplative moments had while sitting still in rush-hour traffic. The 2010 release A Square White Lie comes closest to Colorlist’s newest recording, with drones laid on thick, and a rhythmic element exploiting its seams to provide some contrasting aesthetics.
On Sky Song, the atmospherics are denser, and the percussion swims within its waters, darting about, endowing the music with the personality of a song within a song.
Opening track “Sun Song” goes a long way to illustrating what is to come. The fluttering of saxophone develops into harmonic waves of sax and synths that lap against the shores of the tune, as cross-currents of percussion cause tides to change direction with a suddenness that seems only natural. “Montreal” takes on a similar shape, but with a touch of melancholia adding a darker tone.
“Current” features guests Jeff Parker on guitar, and Josh Eustis and John Hughes on synths. It begins with a seeming absence of structure, throwing out fragments of melodies, rhythms that elude pattern recognition, and harmonies that lack a subject… like a shadow with no source object. But eventually the song coalesces, and all those fragments and pieces reveal themselves to be merely facets of a larger picture. It’s a nifty transformation, and makes for a terrifically engaging song.
“Through the Fires” is, by far, the biggest display of intensity on this recording. What begins as saxophone musings accompanied by a cadence of a pulsing insistence and a loose structure develops into an expansive chant, with saxophone wails and torrents of percussion vaulting this tune up to a sonic plateau that the other album tracks only hint at.
After that, “Where Will We Go” and “Waiting” is about as frenetic as it gets on this recording. On the former, Rumback ups the tempo and Gorczynski builds a sense of urgency via synths and harmonic accompaniment on sax. On the latter, Rumback sits out front and sends out flurries of rhythms that scatter across the surface of the song, while Gorczynski’s sax slowly rises over the song’s horizon.
The album ends with “The Safe Years,” a song representative of the entirety of Colorlist’s body of work… harmonic warmth, rhythmic chatter, and melodies that slowly reveal themselves and never in their totality, leaving some space for the listener’s imagination to fill in the rest of the picture.
A gorgeous, mesmerizing album.
Released on the Serein label.
Other Things You Should Know:
Lots of stuff. I don’t even know where to begin. I became familiar with both of these artists via individual projects before discovering their duo collaboration with The Fastest Way To Become the Ocean.
Coincidentally, on the same day I began writing this review, I found an old draft I had begun, right around when I first started this site up, which gives an overview of the varied projects that Gorczynski is involved with. I’m thinking I might finish that draft off, and include an overview of Rumback’s varied works, too. Lemme see if I can’t knock that article off soon, get it posted up. There’s a lot of great music to be found using both artist’s name as trails of breadcrumbs.