Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Record review: Color Radio - 'Architects'

By Sasha Geffen

Color Radio make music for people who love a good set of headphones. Strap on a pair of over-ear Sennheisers and delve into the rich sonic tapestries these four have woven. 

Architects, the first LP from this Chicago ensemble, stresses minute detail within immense atmosphere. The songs fill space, echoing into the open air, while simultaneously hiding a variety of textures within their depths. Scope never comes at the expense of complexity; these are big songs, but they're filled up with shades, swirls, and patterns that command attentive listening. Like Broken Social Scene, Color Radio understand that dreaminess need not be lackluster.

Instruments twist together naturally and beautifully on Architects. Synths are wielded carefully, padding out smoky guitar licks while avoiding any artificial timbre. The record sustains an organic quality throughout its length. It's filled with sound but never quite gets loud, like the quiet drone of airplane engines humming in the background. Tweedy-esque vocals strain in earnest above the buzz. The occasional orchestral boost breaks through the sleepiness, which at times might be characterized as short-form post-rock.

Layers of finger-picked guitars and uneasy vocal harmonies on "Auto-touch" mimic Grizzly Bear for a shrunken moment before we return to the former expanse. "Marionette" swells to anthemic heights by the finish as marching drums clatter under a celebratory riff. It's a moment, like several on the record, that snags us, gets big, and recedes too quickly. There's a real feeling of wanderlust within Architects, the sense of traversing wide open spaces with often more wonder than focus. We're privy to some spectacular views from the heights we reach, but we're soon moving to the next point of interest.

While occasionally digressive, Architects belies hefty ambition. The group's previous release, Be Safe, Beware, entertained a similar aesthetic on a smaller scale. The four-song EP held sturdy roots in pop that have been mostly pulled up in Architects. Color Radio are less interested now in hooking listeners with immediately satisfying melodies and easy payoffs. Architects takes the slow, reflective quality of Beware and inflates it to a much larger resolution. It's an exploratory turn that's yielded plenty to discover. Take the time to mine the subtleties of this foggy, carefully rendered full-length.

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